A grass that is native to inland Australia, Sporobolus caroli, presents a spectacular display when seen growing on in ground depressions, along ditches and even along roadways. In the early morning light, as the grass gently sways in the breeze, there is the appearance of a mist hovering over the top of the swaying grass. It is no wonder that they also have the common name of Fairy Grass.

Sporobolus caroli are found in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territories.

Fairy Grass (Sporobolus caroli), Alice Springs, NT
Fairy Grass (Sporobolus caroli) growing in and along the drainage depression in Alice Springs, NT

This visually striking grass (especially on mass), is a medium-sized clump-forming, annual to short-lived perennial grass, it has erect, slender culms growing to 30-75 cm tall. The culms are ascending, sometimes branched, ribbed, glabrous; nodes ribbed, glabrous.

A culm is the aerial (above-ground) stem of a grass or sedge. Glabrous in botany, means lacking hairs, of a surface smooth, without pubescence (soft down on the leaves/stems) of any kind.

The leaves when young have a bright to dark green coour, with longitudinal veins visible, and short hairs along a wavy margin.

The Inflorescence flowerheads are broad, open panicles to 25 cm long with very fine branches, having a delicate appearance. The spikelets are numerous and tiny.

The grass can be found growing on flood plains in clay soils, along and in dried out rivers and creeks, roadsides, wasteland and other disturbed sites. They can also be seen growing along drainage depressions, as depicted in the video from Alice Springs.

Wind blowing through the Fairy Grass in drainage depression, Alice Springs, NT

The seed is sometimes gathered from the wild for local use as a food. The seeds being eaten raw or cooked, and can be ground into a flour.

Common name
Fairy Grass, Yakka Grass, Hairy Grass, Small pepper Grass.

Fairy Grass (Sporobolus caroli), Alice Springs, NT
Fairy Grass (Sporobolus caroli), Alice Springs, NT

  • Scientific Classification
  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Phylum: Charophyta
  • Class: Equisetopsida
  • Subclass: Magnoliidae
  • Superorder: Lilianae
  • Order: Poales
  • Family: Poaceae
  • Genus: Sporobolus
  • Species: Sporobolus caroli

Footnote & References

  1. Sporobolus caroli, Atlas of Living Australia, https://bie.ala.org.au/species/https://id.biodiversity.org.au/node/apni/2899024
  2. Sporobolus caroli, New South Wales Flora Online, https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Sporobolus~caroli
  3. 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