Frederick Turner.

Australian grasses and pasture plants : with notes on native fodder shrubs and trees online

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Australian Grasses

and Pasture Plants

With Notes on Native Fodder Shrubs and Trees



Author of the following Government Publications (Illustrated and Descriptive):
The Grasses of New South Wales; Indigenous Forage Plants of Australia (non-grasses);

Australian Grasses ; Wet Australian Grasses : West Australian Salsolaceous Plants ;

New Commercial Crops for New South Wales : Supposed Poisonous Plants of New South Wales ;

Suspected Poisonous Plants of West Australia ; Noxious Introduced Weeds of New South Wales ;

An Ecological Study of One Hundred Species of Queensland Grasses


Auckland. Christehurch. Dunedin, and Wellington. N.Z.. and London




T write an original, reliable, and popular work on the
important subject oi Australian Grasses and Pasture
Plants for the information of stock-owners and all
those settled upon the land in this great southern continent
is a serious and onerous undertaking, more especially
when the space is limited to a certain number of pages.
Although the matter contained in this little volume is con-
cisely written accuracy has not been sacrificed, for the in-
formation is based upon my own scientific and practical
experience and long observation of the economic value oi
some of the best and most widely distributed grasses and
forage plants growing in Australian pastures.

The matter contained in the following pages may be
regarded as a sequel to those illustrated and descriptive
larger and more comprehensive works on Australian Grasses
and Forage Plants, which I wrote under instructions from the
Governments of New South Wales, Queensland, and West

SYDNEY, 1921.



Noxious Weeds

WEEDS of every kind





Every square foot of land is valuable
now-a-days far too valuable to be taken
up by scrub and weeds. Why should
they sap the vitality out of ground which
should contribute to your storehouse or

Have you a clearing problem is any
of your land being usurped by undesir-
able weeds? Then there's no earthly
reason why they should remain there
any longer. You have a speedy, sure,
and economical means of cutting short
their existence.

"VALLO" Brand Weed
Scrub and Tree Killer

will clean them off like a bush fire, with
the difference that they go for good.
"Vallo" is not an experiment. It is an
absolute exterminator of any and every
kind of Noxious Growth. It's demon-
strating its efficiency every day. Whether
your trouble be giant trees or common
sorrel put "Vallo" on the job and you'll
be impressed by what it can do.

Prices: 56lbs., 70/-; 15 Ibs.. 21/3 ; 7 ibs., 10,6;
1 lb.. 2/s jib., 1/3

Manufactured by A.Victor LeggO & Co,




Introductory . . . . . . . . . . 5

Grasses . . . . . . . . . . 16

Pasture Herbs . . . . . . . . . . 47

Salt-Bushes . . . . . . . . . . 55

Edible Shrubs . . . . . . . . . . 65

Fodder Trees . . . . . . . . . . 72

Some Acclimatised and Cultivated Exotic Grasses and

Forage Plants . . . . . . . . 83

Annual Grasses Grown for Auxiliary Feed for Stock . . 90

Maize . . . . . . . . . . 90

MiUets .. .. .. .. ..91

Sorghums . . . . . . . . 94

Clovers and Allied Forage Plants . . . . 97

Feeding Value of Lucerne Hay . . 97

Miscellaneous Forage Plants . . . . . . 104

Hints on Laying Down Permanent Pasture . . . . 105

Grass Mixtures for Permanent and Temporary Pasture 106

Exotic Grasses for Permanent Pasture . . 109


Scene on an Australian Sheep Station . . Frontispiece


Australian Millet . . . . . . . . 17

Blue Grass . . . . . . . . . . 20

Kangaroo Grass . . . . . . . . . . 29

Mitchell Grass . . . . . . . . . . 34

Wallaby Grass . . . . . . . . . . 40

Warrego Grass . . . . . . . . . . 42

Darling Clover . . . . . . . . . . 49

Tarvine . . . . . . . . . . 54

Old Man Salt-Bush . . . . . . 56

Creeping Salt- Bush . . . . . . 60

Berrigan . . . . . . . . . . 66

Kurrajong . . . . . . . . 74


Grasses Clovers Lucerne
and All Fodder Crops


The King of Swamp Grasses

A ta.ll, perennial, reed-like grass growing to a height
of 6ft. Dairy Cattle are particularly fond of it and on
Dairy Farms with swampy grounds considerable
quantities have been established to great advantage.

Subterranean Clover Strawberry Clover

Splendid for grazing. Grows in
dry sandy soil and gravelly pas-
tures, and sows itself when once
it gets a start. Cattle may graze
upon it all the year round without
harming it.


the King of Fodder Crops. Lu-
cerne fattens Cattle, Sheep, Pigs,
etc., better than any other feed,
and with less expense. All our
Lucernes are specially machine
cleaned, hand sieved, free from
dodder and true to name and have
passed the Government test.

A most valuable forage plant for
damp lands, producing immense
quantities of fattening herbage
greatly relished by stock. Very
rapid grower.


THE Food for Sheep. Rape
is easily cultivated, makes strong
rapid growth, and produces an
abundance of highly nutritious
and palatable green feed. Greatly
relished by all stock, particularly

Law Somner's Catalog

Invaluable to Pastoralists, Farmers, etc. It's the
most complete Catalog published in Australia.
Owing to th* high cost of printing and increased
postage we are compelled to make a nominal
charge of I/-, which will be refunded with the first
order to the value of 51- on production of the
order form in the front of the Catalog. Secure a
copy. If to be posted, add 6d. for postage.

Special Farm Circulars

Issued each season post free on request. Let us
put your name on our mailing list.



139-141 Swanston Street =


Australian Grasses and Pasture Plants


Australian grasses attracted much attention from the
discoverers and the earliest settlers on the land, and different
views were entertained regarding their economic importance.
Sir Joseph Banks, to whom Australia is so much indebted for
its early settlement, and for the development of its vegetable
resources, remarked in one of his reports : ' ' The herbage
of the colony is by no means so well adapted to sheep-farming
as that of Europe, and, therefore, the progress of the flocks
will be slow." This opinion, however, was soon contro-
verted, for Captain Waterhouse, writing to Captain Macarthur
(two pioneers in the pastoral industry) in the early part of
the last century, mentioned that he had kept sheep, and found
them do well on the natural pasturage, and he believed that
good pasturage would be found for any number of sheep that
might be raised. He therefore ridiculed the idea of the
necessity of introducing exotic grasses. The opinions enter-
tained by Captain Waterhouse, more than one hundred years
ago, have been amply verified by subsequent experience.
Australian explorers always took great interest in the indig-
enous grasses which, when abundant, relieved them of much
anxiety in providing good feed for their horses and for the
stock that travelled with them. Sir Thomas Mitchell,
exploring in the interior, collected specimens of grasses,
and afterwards wrote an interesting account of the manner
in which the aborigines gathered the "Australian Millet"
(Panicum decompositum) the seeds of which formed for them


an important article of food. He, inter alia, writes : ' ' The
grass had been pulled up to a very great extent and piled
in hay-ricks, so that the aspect of the desert was softened
into the agreeable semblance of a hay field. The grass was
beautifully green beneath the heaps and full of seeds, and
our cattle were very fond of this hay. ' ' Since the introduc-
tion of sheep farming hi Australia, a little more than a century
ago, the pastoral industry has gradually increased in import-
ance, and is now estimated to be worth about 250,000,000
sterling, and yearly increasing in value, being the most im-
portant in Australia, and the one from which the population
derives its greatest wealth. It is, therefore, a matter of
national importance that more attention should be devoted
to the valuable indigenous grasses and other pasture herbage,
and that its great economic value should be more generally
known to stockowners. For without that rich and varied
vegetation, which is the most valuable asset in Australia, it
would be practically impossible to feed the millions of sheep,
cattle and horses now pastured on this continent. As far
as is at present known there are three hundred and seventy
species and many varieties of grass indigenous to Australia,
and they are fairly well distributed over the continent, quite
a number occurring on the so-called desert tracts of Central
Australia. Some of these attain a height of from eight to
ten feet or more, but by far the greater number grow, under
normal conditions, from one foot to four feet high. All
these grasses, of course, are not valuable feed for stock, and
although the inferior ones have their uses in the economy
of Nature, further reference to them is not necessary in this

Having travelled more than fifty thousand miles in
Australia during the last forty years, and having critically
examined much of the indigenous vegetation in all the States
of the Commonwealth and in other countries, and having


cultivated in an experimental way, over a series of years,
upwards of one hundred species of Australian grasses to-
gether with the best that could be obtained in Europe, Asia,
Africa, and America, to test their drought enduring properties
and other qualities by comparison, I can conscientiously say
that no part of the world possesses richer and more varied
pasture vegetation than Australia, and if careful attention
is given to it, and judicious stocking is practised, the grasses
and other herbage will maintain their vigour and economic
value indefinitely. Some years ago stock-owners in various
districts thought to improve the grazing capacity of their
pastures by sowing seeds of the so-called English grasses.
These succeed well enough in those parts of Australia which
have a climate and rainfall somewhat similar to those of
Northern Europe, but these comprise an exceedingly small
area in comparison with the whole of the continent. To
sow such grass seeds on most of the grazing areas in this
country would simply be courting failure. Very few stock-
owners are aware that an acre well clothed with grass contains
from fifteen to twenty million plants, though in some excep-
tional cases as many as forty million plants have been recorded
to the acre. Nor are they aware that the number of grass
seeds required to sow an acre, supposing it to be sown at the
rate of forty pounds is approximately twenty-two millions.
This applies to ordinary grasses as, for example, the different
species of Eragrostis and Panicum. It will be gathered from
these facts that in order to maintain good stock feed, the natural
pastures should be systematically attended to. To accom-
plish this every pastoral holding should be divided into
paddocks, which should be grazed in rotation, and each
paddock should have at least three or four months' rest every
year, and particularly for a period during seeding time. By
this method not only would the herbage recuperate, but it
would have an opportunity of producing seed, which in due


course would fall to the ground and germinate, and new plants
would result and so perpetuate good pasturage.

Seed Producing Properties of Australian Grasses.

Most of the indigenous grasses, when allowed to grow undis-
turbed for a time, produce an abundance of seed which when
mature and kept in contact with dry earth retain their germi-
nating power for a lengthy period. Several species produce
seeds which are comparatively large when compared with
those of cultivated cereals, and which at one time formed an
important article of food for the aborigines. The ripe seeds
of many indigenous grasses are enclosed in very hard coverings
with the lower portions prolonged into points. When
mature these seeds fall perpendicularly to the ground, penet-
rate it, and gradually descend several inches, especially if it
is deep and loose. The sharp-pointed seeds of the "tall oat
grass" (Anthistiria avenacea) have been found nearly a foot
below the surface, so that it is easy to understand how the
ground is often thickly studded with the seeds of various grasses.
This method of sowing grass seed is one of the many devices
Dame Nature adopts for perpetuating plants under adverse
climatic conditions. When good rains fall on these naturally-
sown areas, and genial weather ensues, the seeds germinate
quickly, and the resulting grass grows rapidly and soon clothes
apparently useless tracts of country with beautiful verdure.

Drought Enduring and Recuperative Powers of Australian

Grasses. Many of the native grasses have bulbous or thick
knotty bases, which no doubt are provided by Nature for
storing up food to sustain the plants during very dry weather,
and to preserve them from extinction. In adverse seasons
and during prolonged droughts, when every vestige of grass
foliage has disappeared, these swollen bases, which are gener-
ally enveloped in a woolly substance to prevent evaporation,


and their strong, long, fibrous roots, which penetrate deeply
into the earth, remain alive but dormant until the condition of
the soil and weather are favourable for them to again put
forth green leaves. In January, after a heavy fall of rain, I
have seen the dormant, woolly, swollen bases of the "tall
oat grass" develop stems and leaves, and in four months
plants more than six feet high, producing a remarkable amount
of rich, succulent herbage. That occurred on some of the
country west of the Darling River, but on the black soil
plains near Moree I have seen that fine grass nearly nine feet
high, and that wonderful growth was made in less than five
months after heavy summer rain, followed by favourable
weather. Several species, peculiar to the interior, of the
genus Eragrostis have large bulbous bases from which a
number of stems and leaves develop after rainfall, no matter
how prolonged the previous dry weather may have been.
Eragrostis eriopoda and E. laniftora are two very remarkable
plants in that particular. An allied species (E. lacunaria)
is popularly called "never fail" by stockmen, on account of
the phenomenal amount of dry weather it can withstand.
One of the ' ' mulga ' ' grasses (Danthonia bipartita) has a large
bulbous base and strong fibrous roots, which enable the plant
to withstand the torrid heat of Central Australia. After rain
quite a number of growths, generally not more than one foot,
and rarely exceeding two feet in height, are produced from
its base, and the leaves remain vividly green for a considerable
time, even if a long period of dry weather ensues. The
"Mitchell grasses" (Astrebla spp.} occupy large tracts of
country in the interior and have thick, knotty bases, which,
together with the strong, wiry roots, that penetrate deeply
into the earth, remain in a dormant condition during pro-
tracted droughts, but readily start into growths after a good
rainfall. These valuable pasture grasses, more particularly
(Astrebla elymoides), have a branching habit, and in an


ordinary season a good shower of rain, such as results from a
thunderstorm, will cause new growth to sprout prolifically
from the joints of the stems, which are soon covered with a
mass of green nutritious herbage. The above are only a very
few of the many instances which could be given to illustrate
the remarkable recuperative powers of Australian grasses.

Improvement of Pastures. On sheep runs the fact that
every animal and the fleece of wool that it produces annually
takes a certain percentage of chemical substances out of the
earth is often lost sight of and little or nothing so far has
been done to restore these elements to the soil, except that
which is returned in a natural way, but these should be taken
into consideration for they are of primary importance in
maintaining good pasturage. In the dairying districts few
dairymen take into account that a very large amount of
nutritious herbage is required to build up the frame and body
of young cattle, and also that every gallon of milk takes a
certain amount of fertility out of the land. Until this is
restored to the soil in some form or another the pasturage,
both as regards quantity and quality, must deteriorate sooner
or later. Amongst a number of chemical constituents that
grasses and fodder plants remove from the soil, the most
valuable are nitrogen, phosphoric acid, potash, and lime.
These should be returned to the land in the form of dried blood,
bonedust, kainite, or similar manures. The proportion to use
will, of course, depend upon local and other conditions, and
must be determined by those who use them. Some soils are
naturally richer in one or more of these constituents than
others are, and when this has been chemically ascertained the
proportion to apply to the land can be gauged to a nicety,
and fertilisers can be used economically and efficiently. In
some pastures in the coast areas chain harrows have been
employed to pulverise and evenly distribute over the grass the


refuse from dairy stock, and the results have already justified
the labour. This innovation is a decided advance in the
improvement of pastures, and might be more generally
practised with advantage on all the grazing areas in the
Commonwealth devoted to dairy cattle.

Pasture Herbs that Provide Good Feed for Stock. In

Australia there are large numbers of herbs, other than grasses,
that form a good precentage of the indigenous herbage on
many sheep and cattle stations. Owing to their varied char-
acter for there are representatives of many different families
of plants these nutritious fodder herbs are a most important
factor in making Australian native pastures rich feeding
grounds for all kinds of herbivora. Moreover, the succulent
stems and leaves of many of these plants assuage the thirst
of the animals that eat them. Many of these herbs have long,
strong roots, which penetrate deeply into the earth, and
enable the plants to withstand a long period of dry weather,
without any appreciable check to their growth. When not
too closely fed over, they produce an abundance of seed which
germinates readily under ordinary conditions, and so they
are fairly plentiful in many parts of the country. Most of
them are herbaceous plants, and many of upright habit,
growing about one foot high, while several have prostrate
stems, which lengthen considerably in good seasons.

The Importance of Salt-Bush to the Pastoral Industry.
When sheep and cattle were first removed from the coast
areas, and pastured on the great inland plains, observant
stockmen were not long in finding out that the animals kept
in excellent condition, and that where salt-bush formed a good
percentage of the herbage, sheep that had been suffering from
distoma diseases, fluke, for example, were eventually cured
of these intestinal parasites. Although during the early days


of pastoral occupation salt-bushes were so highly valued as
feed for sheep and cattle, no attempts were made to system-
atically conserve them ; consequently they are not nearly as
plentiful in many parts of the interior as formerly. Many
pastoralists, however, profiting by previous mistakes, are now
fully convinced of the necessity of conserving these valuable
forage plants, which have provided such excellent feed for
stock, even during adverse seasons, and several experienced
graziers are now going so far as to cultivate them. A good
percentage of salt-bushes in the pastures enhances the grazing
capabilities of the country, and keeps stock in a healthy con-
dition; moreover, their succulent stems and leaves assuage
the thirst of the animals that browse upon them a most
important consideration in country where water is scarce.
All these plants are easily raised from seed, and many can be
increased by cuttings, so that there are no insurmountable
difficulties in increasing this valuable pasture herbage. The
succulent stems and leaves of several salinous plants are good
table esculents when cooked and served in the ordinary way.
Some species attain a height of from six to twelve feet or more,
and others of from three to four feet, but the greater number
grow from one foot to two feet high, while several have creep-
ing stems which sometimes cover the ground for a considerable
area with rich, succulent herbage. Very few plants so useful
for forage purposes can exist under such adverse conditions,
of drought and heat as most members of the salt-bush family.
When well established they are exceedingly tenacious of life,
and the hotter the season the more luxuriantly many of them
grow, provided they are not persistently eaten over. Chemical
analyses of Australian salt-bushes made in New South Wales,,
and in California, where considerable attention has been
devoted to their cultivation, agree in assigning to them a high
feeding value. Though different species vary considerably
it may be stated that as a general rule the best kinds, when


freshly cut, contain about seventy-five per cent, of water,
four to six per cent, of fats, about two point three
per cent, of albuminoids, ten per cent, of digestible
carbohydrates, three to four per cent, of woody fibre,
with a very high percentage of ash, of which half is
common salt, ranging from five to ten. In comparison with
other forage plants, salt-bushes are richer than barley, maize,
oats, or sorghum fodder, weight for weight, and are nearly
equal to lucerne and the best meadow hay. Their nutritive
ratio is one to four, proving that they are a rich food, as they
contain one part of flesh-forming substances to four of heat-
giving materials, and thus furnish a well balanced ration for
fattening pasture animals.

Edible Shrubs. Any account of the grasses and forage
plants of Australia would be incomplete without a mention
of the indigenous shrubs and trees whose foliage provide good
feed for stock. In its virgin state a fair percentage of the
interior that is now devoted to grazing consisted of vegetation
that was largely composed of drought enduring shrubs
scrubs as stockmen call them growing from three to fifteen
feet high or more, the leaves of which provided good feed for
herbivora when the more tender pasture herbage became
scarce during prolonged periods of dry weather. It has long
been proved by practical experience that that kind of
vegetation, when fairly plentiful, is of the greatest import-
ance, and it is therefore considered a most valuable asset
on any station. The constant feeding over of the dwarf
shrubs, the periodical lopping and cutting down of numbers
of the taller ones as feed for stock, and the ringbarking of
thousands of others by rabbits, have had a serious effect upon
the stock carrying capacity of immense areas of country in

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Online LibraryFrederick TurnerAustralian grasses and pasture plants : with notes on native fodder shrubs and trees → online text (page 1 of 8)