Heteropogon contortus: Black speargrass

Family: Poaceae
Common name: Black speargrass, Tanglehead, Steekgrass

Black speargrass is a very common wild grass in tropical regions of Asia, Africa and Australia, growing in sandy or rocky soil. They do not grow in clay-type or non-draining soil. In India, it is seen commonly on hillsides and also by the side of the road; their long spikey inflorescence swaying in the wind.

The spikelets are characterized by a black thin upper half that looks like a spear. The lower half is hairy with prominent white hairs and seeds. Leaves are very thin, about 15-30 cms long, and folded at the center in younger leaves.

Long, thin inflorescences about 5-8 cms long arise from the axils between the leaves, usually in pairs, one being fertile and the other being male or sterile. Seeds have awns and spikes that help them nestle deeper in the soil before sprouting. It’s a good grazing grass, though over-grazing might lead to loss of this grass from a particular habitat.

Black speargrass is mostly used as fodder, but is also used for thatching huts, matting and for making paper. The plants live for about 5 years, the shorter life span making it important for the seeds fertilize and generate new plants quickly before the parent plants die.

Black speargrass’ tolerance to soil and climate conditions; and it capability to grow and spread fast, makes it an ideal ground cover grass. In deserted areas, this grass can be introduced to give it a good cover along with other sturdy trees.

Propagation is from seeds.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *