Natal grass flowers
Photo by Forest and Kim Starr

natal grass

Ratings

  • This plant has a Plant Risk Evaluator rating of High Potential Risk

Description

Natal grass, also called ruby grass, is an annual to perennial plant native to Africa. In almost all parts of the South Coast region of California it is a perennial.

It grows in clumps 1-2 ft. high and slightly wider, with narrow blue-green leaves that grow straight at first, then arching. The flower spikes are deep pink to purplish red and gradually fade to light pinkish tan.

Natal grass prolifically produces light and fluffy seeds, which are key to the rapid spread of this species. The seeds are dispersed by wind and can also become lodged in clothing, vehicles, and animal fur. It blooms year-round in California and establishes readily along roadways, coastal sage and grasslands, primarily in coastal areas and foothills.

It is very widely naturalized in Australia, and has naturalized in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and on several Pacific islands.

In California it is particularly a problem in the South Coast region. Calflora shows where it has been found in California growing outside of cultivation.

Where natal grass is invasive, if often forms large stands, where it can compete with and displace native species. Stands of natal grass can increase the number of fires, negatively affecting the growth and survival of native flora and fauna. It competes with native plants for light, nutrients, water, and space, and prevents colonization by native species.

Why is this plant not included on the invasive plant list?

In the past when it was considered, it wasn't thought to be used much for ornamental purposes. It appears to be more popular in horticulture now.

More information

For more information about this plant, please see the following resources: