Ilparpa Claypans FloraAnnual Yellowtop (Senecio gregorii) Apple Bush (Pterocaulon sphacelatum) Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) Button grass (Dactyloctenium radulans) Centipeda crateriformis Cyperus sp Goatshead Burr (Sclerolaena bicornis) Golden Everlasting (Xerochrysum bracteatum) Invisible Plant (Siemssenia capillaris) Longtails (Ptilotus polystachyus) Nardoo (Marsilea drummondii) Pink Everlasting (Schoenia cassiniana) Polycarpaea corymbosa var brevifolia Red Pussytail (Ptilotus polystachyus) Schenkia australis Small-Leaf Swainson-Pea (Swainsona microphylla) Tiny Purslane (Calandrinia pumila) Tiny Purslane (White form) Variable Daisy (Brachyscome ciliaris) Wahlenbergia capillaris Yellow Billybutton (Calocephalus platycephalus)

An introduced species, Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) was inadvertently introduced to Australia in the 1870s along the routes of the Afghan cameleers. Since then it was widely introduced as food for livestock and to stabilise soils in land rehabilitation.

Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), Ilparpa Claypans, Alice Springs NT
Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), Ilparpa Claypans, Alice Springs NT

Buffel Grass has spread widely across the continent of Australia, even into the arid and semi-arid regions. Some ecologists have called buffel ‘the botanical equivalent of the cane toad’.

Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), Ilparpa Claypans, Alice Springs NT
Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), Ilparpa Claypans, Alice Springs NT

Now an aggressive plant coloniser, buffel grass has displaced native species, as well as stripping precious nutrients out of the soil. It now dominate the ground layers of Australian native plant communities, reducing native plant diversity.

Of even more concern is that buffel is highly flammable. In areas of infestation, buffel grass can burn so hot, creating wildfires that spread really rapidly, and transforming entire landscape, such as woodlands, into grasslands of a single species.

Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), Ilparpa Claypans, Alice Springs NT
Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), Ilparpa Claypans, Alice Springs NT

This threat to biodiversity is now recognised with strategies being attempted across Australia, such as by the (SA Arid Lands, Rangelands (WA), Fitzroy (QLD) and the NT).

Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), Ilparpa Claypans, Alice Springs NT
Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), Ilparpa Claypans, Alice Springs NT

There are a number of different cultivars of Buffel Grass, varying in size, flower and seed characteristics. All are tussock forming grass, with some known to live for at least 20 years.1

Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), Ilparpa Claypans, Alice Springs NT
Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), Ilparpa Claypans, Alice Springs NT

Buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) is a tussock grass, usually perennial that can grow to a height of 1.5 metres tall. The leaves are flat and up to 30 cm long. The seed heads form a dense, hairy cylindrical spike and vary in colour as the flowerhead ages. Buffel produce seeds quickly, with the tussock grass reshooting rapidly after a rain event, producing flowers one week later and seeds within three to four weeks.

Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), Ilparpa Claypans, Alice Springs NT
Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), Ilparpa Claypans, Alice Springs NT

More information in our Flora sectionGrass and Grasses, Buffel Grass


  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Clade: Tracheophytes
  • Clade: Angiosperms
  • Clade: Monocots
  • Clade: Commelinids
  • Order: Poales
  • Family: Poaceae
  • Subfamily: Panicoideae
  • Genus: Cenchrus
  • Species: Cenchrus ciliaris

Footnote & References

  1. The Alice Springs Bush Regeneration Handbook, by Andy Vinter (2012), ISBN 978-0-646-58810-0, c/- Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife, Alice Springs

Ilparpa Claypans FloraAnnual Yellowtop (Senecio gregorii) Apple Bush (Pterocaulon sphacelatum) Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) Button grass (Dactyloctenium radulans) Centipeda crateriformis Cyperus sp Goatshead Burr (Sclerolaena bicornis) Golden Everlasting (Xerochrysum bracteatum) Invisible Plant (Siemssenia capillaris) Longtails (Ptilotus polystachyus) Nardoo (Marsilea drummondii) Pink Everlasting (Schoenia cassiniana) Polycarpaea corymbosa var brevifolia Red Pussytail (Ptilotus polystachyus) Schenkia australis Small-Leaf Swainson-Pea (Swainsona microphylla) Tiny Purslane (Calandrinia pumila) Tiny Purslane (White form) Variable Daisy (Brachyscome ciliaris) Wahlenbergia capillaris Yellow Billybutton (Calocephalus platycephalus)

Ilparpa ClaypansIlparpa Claypans Fauna Ilparpa Claypans Flora Ilparpa Claypans Landscape

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