Wire grass

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Aristida species

CATEGORY: 4  perennial


  • Tufted, warm-season  annuals or perennials
  • Stems tend to be  wiry, often branched and with very little leaf
  • Seedhead is a  contracted to open panicle and seeds have a three-branched awn
  • Flowers from spring  to autumn


  • More common where  ground cover is reduced (e.g. shallow, low-fertility soils and overgrazed  pastures)
  • Highly drought  tolerant, but frost sensitive


  • Low forage value
  • Digestibility  ranges from 22-55% for most species
  • Crude protein 2-7%  for most species, but occasionally up to 14% (e.g. Jericho wiregrass)


  • Provide ground  cover even on the poorest soils where few other grasses will grow and can be  indicators of soils less suitable for agricultural production
  • Often indicators of  overgrazed pastures, as wire grasses are mostly only palatable when very  young.  Overgrazing reduces or eliminates  more desirable species, allowing wire grasses to increase in abundance
  • Generally low  yielding, producing little leaf and what leaf is produced is typically shed  during times of stress
  • Seeds cause damage  to the eyes, fleece, hides and flesh of animals
  • Have little or no  growth response to elevated fertility, although nitrogen inputs from medics and  clovers can increase their palatability
  • Manage pastures to  maintain the density of more desirable species (if present), by not overgrazing  and providing strategic rests to allow flowering, set seed and recovery from  grazing


  • There are at least 19 Aristida species.  Most are difficult to  distinguish without expert knowledge
  • Spear grasses (Austrostipa species) have seeds with  just one awn and tend to be much leafier