How to identify serrated tussock

The identification of serrated tussock can sometimes be difficult, especially when the seed head is not present. It can often look like other species of grasses. You can download a copy of the Identification Guide by clicking here, which also highlights some look-alike species.  

To access our Serrated Tussock Identification App, please click here, which will run you through several pages that assist with the identification process. 

Several structures of the plant can be examined to identify the plant as serrated tussock.

The flowering heads of serrated tussock can weep over the entire tussock and touch the ground. - Source: VSTWP

Flowering stems and seed heads

Using the flowering stems and seed heads is one of the easiest way to identify serrated tussock.

The flowering stem of serrated tussock can be up to 90cm, twice as long as the leaves. Once the seed is ripe, the flowering stem will weep over the entire plant to touch the ground.

The seed head is an open panicle (multi-branched stem) up to 35cm long with two or three branches at each junction and one seed at the end of each branch.

The seed head is purple soon after flowering, and then turns a golden brown when the seed has matured. The entire flowering stem will break off from the base of the plant once the seed has ripened.

Is it serrated tussock?

Serrated tussock seed heads have an open panicle or multi branched stem up to 35cm long. The seed head is purple, turning a golden brown when the seed head has matured.

The serrated tussock seed head is an open panicle or multi-branched stem. - Source: DEPI Victoria

Seeds

The seed of serrated tussock is unlike the seed of any other tussock grass that it may be confused with. Serrated tussock seeds are 1.5 – 2mm long and enclosed in two reddish brown or purple bracts (glumes), 6 – 10mm long which taper gradually to a point.

The seed has a tuft of short white silky hairs at one end and a long, twisted awn at the other end.

The awn is attached to the seed off centre and its length varies. In Victoria, the awn can be up to 35mm long.

Is it serrated tussock?

The seed is 1.5 – 2mm long, enclosed in two reddish brown or purple bracts with a long twisted awn. 

In late spring and early summer a mass of flowering serrated tussock can have a purple appearance. - Source: VSTWP 

Colour

Serrated tussock changes colour with the seasons.

In late spring and early summer, the plant flowers and appears purple. Once the seed ripens in late summer, flower heads change to a golden brown colour with a light green tussock base.

During summer, while other grasses have usually died off, serrated tussock plants remain green. Some older leaves may die and remain beige on the plant for several years.

Is it serrated tussock?

Serrated tussock appears green in summer while other grasses may have died off. When flowering, the plant can appear purple, turning a golden brown colour as the seeds mature. 

Fine serrations can be felt when the leaves of serrated tussock are run between the finger from tip to base. - Source: DEPI Victoria

Leaves

Serrated tussock has numerous thin leaves, up to 50cm long, emerging from the base to form a large tussock. They are tightly rolled and finely serrated with white bases.

The fine serrations on the leaves of serrated tussock can be felt if the finger and thumb are carefully pulled along the leaf from the tip to the base.

When the serrated tussock leaf is rolled between the finger and thumb, it will role smoothly like a needle. This differentiates serrated tussock from some similar native grass species, which feel like they have flat edges.

Is it serrated tussock?

The leaves will feel serrated when the thumb and finger are gently pulled along the leaf from top to bottom if it is serrated tussock. Serrated tussock leaves can also be rolled smoothly like a needle between the fingers. 

Ligule

The ligule is a membranous or hairy appendage that occurs at the junction where the leaf separates from the stem. To find the ligule, trace down a leaf to its junction with the stem. Carefully separate and bend the leaf back. If a grass has a ligule, it is a small, membranous or hairy flap that protudes.

The ligule of serrated tussock is continouis with the leaf sheath, is small (1mm long), white, has a rounded tip and is never hairy. Most grasses that are confused with serrated tussock have hairy ligules.

Is it serrated tussock?

The ligule of serrated tussock will be short, white and smooth, never hairy. 

Serrated tussock roots are fibrous. - Source: DEPI Victoria 

Roots

Serrated tussock has a large, extensive and fibrous root system, making it difficult to pull from the ground, even when small.