Curly spinifex plain pastures in the Kimberley, Western Australia

Page last updated: Monday, 5 February 2024 - 12:56pm

Curly spinifex plain pastures are one of the many pasture types in the pastoral rangelands in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development provides this pasture information as a reference for assessing pasture condition, and as a guide for pastoral station staff and others interested in the productivity and maintenance of the pastoral rangelands.

Assessments can be used to monitor the success of management and to set goals for improving rangeland condition.

Curly spinifex plain pastures

These pastures are part of the Kimberley sandy soil group pastures, and perennial curly spinifex is the identifier grass. Use the interactive key to pasture condition to help identify pasture type.

Pastoral value

Curly spinifex plain pastures have a low pastoral value, although value is increased if there is a high density of ribbon grass in the stand. These pastures can also provide a valuable drought reserve. Too-frequent burning, burning at the wrong time, or heavy grazing following fire causes desirable species, such as curly spinifex and ribbon grass, to decrease or disappear.


Curly spinifex plain pastures are widespread on level to undulating plains throughout the East Kimberley. They are found on a range of sandy or stony soils. In the north, they occur in eucalypt woodlands; in the drier southern areas, they occur with scattered wattles and eucalypts, or as treeless hummock grasslands.

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Pasture condition

Good: In good pasture condition, curly spinifex dominates and is evenly distributed. Ribbon grass may also be common; its presence is largely influenced by moisture availability and past livestock grazing pressure. A range of other desirable and intermediate perennial species may be present, with palatable annual grasses often occurring in the spaces between the perennial grasses.

Desirable species are vigorous and seedlings or young plants of curly spinifex and ribbon grass are often present, depending on the seasonal conditions and time of year.

Photograph of curly spinifex plain pasture in good condition
Figure 1 Curly spinifex plain pasture in good condition in the Kimberley (photograph taken May 2008).   A Curly spinifex, a desirable species in this pasture type, is dominant; individual adult plants are healthy and some younger plants can be seen.   B Only small, evenly spaced areas of bare ground are evident.

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Fair: In fair condition, the curly spinifex stand is uneven, with larger bare areas developing between plants. Ribbon grass may be well grazed and infrequent. Desirable perennial grasses show some loss of vigour and there is an increase in the presence of less palatable perennial species, such as wire grass.

Photograph of curly spinifex plain pasture in fair condition
Figure 2 Curly spinifex plain pasture in fair condition in the Kimberley (photograph taken August 2008).  A Curly spinifex is present, but the density is reduced and coverage is patchy.  B Patches of bare ground are uneven and large.  C Some undesirable species, such as threeawns, are present.

Poor: In poor condition, desirable species (e.g. curly spinifex and ribbon grass) are rare. The pasture may still be quite dense but is dominated by undesirable species, such as threeawns, and intermediate annual grasses, such as Kimberley couch and annual sorghum. Some intermediate perennial grasses, such as wire grass, may be present.

Photograph of curly spinifex plain pasture in poor condition
Figure 3 Curly spinifex plain pasture in poor condition in the Kimberley (photograph taken May 2008).   A Curly spinifex plants are infrequent.   B Undesirable species, such as threeawns, make up about half the stand.   C Patches of bare ground are larger.   D Rice grass, a coloniser of bare areas, is present.

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Associated plants

Plants associated with curly spinifex plain pastures in the Kimberley
Common name
(link to DPIRD species page)

Scientific name

(link to FloraBase)

Life form
Desirable species    

Curly spinifex

Triodia bitextura

perennial grass

Soft spinifex

Triodia pungens

perennial grass

Ribbon grass

Chrysopogon fallax

perennial grass

Silky browntop

Eulalia aurea

perennial grass

White grass

Sehima nervosum

perennial grass

Intermediate species    

Wire grass, Northern Wanderrie grass

Eriachne obtusa

perennial grass

Black speargrass

Heteropogon contortus

perennial grass

Citronella grass

Cymbopogon bombycinus

perennial grass

Annual sorghum

Sorghum stipoideum

annual grass

Undesirable species    

Threeawn grasses

Aristida spp.

annual or perennial grass

Hard spinifexes

Triodia spp.

perennial grasses

Contact information

Chris Hetherington