UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
NEW SOUTH WALES.
FRED. TURNER, F.L.S., F.R.H.S.,
Author of the "INDIGENOUS FORAGE PLANTS OF AUSTRALIA" (illustrated);
"A CENSUS OF THE GRASSES OF NEW SOUTH WALES";
"NEW COMMERCIAL CROPS FOR NEW SOUTH WALES" (illustrated); "Noxious WEEDS:
INDIGENOUS AND EXOTIC" (illustrated) ;
"SUPPOSED POISONOUS PLANTS OF NEW SOUTH WALES" (illustrated); etc.
SYDNEY: CHARLES POTTER, UU'NMENT PRINTER, PHILLIP STREET.
lib 22-95-0 A [5-S.]
THIS volume of Australian Grasses is published under the authority
of the Honorable Sydney Smith, M.P., Minister for Mines and
Agriculture, New South Wales.
During recent years I have been often asked by scientists and
pastoralists to publish an illustrated and descriptive work on
Australian grasses for general information, and in some of the
press reviews of my work on the " Indigenous Forage Plants of
Australia" (non-grasses), a hope was expressed that at no distant
date a similar work on Australian grasses would be forthcoming
from the same writer. Through the New South Wales Govern-
ment I have the opportunity of placing such a work before the
public, and I venture to think it will not only be a text-book on the
subject but a medium of making Australian grasses and their
economic properties better known throughout the world. My
descriptions of Australian salsolaceous plants (salt-bushes) have
been widely republished in this and in other countries for general
information, and there is now a great demand for salt-bush seeds,
not only for sowing in places on this continent, where the plants
have become scarce, but for sowing in South Africa, India, South
Europe, and some of the warmer States of North America.
During the past twenty years I have travelled over thirty
thousand miles in New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria.
Some of this time was devoted to botanical excursions. For some
time I was inspecting and reporting on the capabilities of Crown
lands, and the best way of utilizing them, for the Government of
New South Wales, and last, but not least, I have written many
special reports on the pastoral areas of this country. A synopsis
of three of these reports, on important grazing districts, is embodied
in this book. I have also grown in an experimental way upwards
of one hundred species of Australian grasses, which, I believe,
cannot be said by any one else in Australia who has written any-
thing about them. It will be gathered from the above that the
facilities for acquiring information and making observations have
given me the necessary qualifications to write with authority on
the subject. Since the experiments already referred to were
carried out, the publication of my essay on the " Forage Plants
and Grasses of Australia," which I read at the Melbourne
University before the Australasian Association for the Advance-
ment of Science, and the publication by the New South Wales
Government of my " Census of the Grasses of New South Wales,''
and of my work on the " Indigenous Forage Plants of Australia,"
together with figures and descriptions of some Australian grasses,
there has certainly been a great amount of interest awakened in
the subject, not only in Australian scientists and pastoralists, but
in those resident in other countries. Not long since I wrote a
voluminous report on the herbage of this country, at the request of
the American Consul, for the information of the United States
Many successful pastoralists have told me that they knew little
or nothing about the economic value of the herbage oh their grazing
areas until they saw my figures and read my descriptions of it, and
are now convinced that the indigenous herbage is better suited to
the conditions of the climate than a great many of the exotics
which have been introduced and recommended for cultivation in
many parts of the country. What are known as English grasses
will 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 grasses on most of the
grazing areas in this country would only be courting failure.
It would appear that in the early days of settlement the value of
the native forage plants and grasses occupied some attention, and
different views were entertained on the subject. Sir Joseph Banks,
to whom Australia is so much indebted for its early settlement, and
for the development of its vegetable resources, remarks in one of his
papers : " 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 controverted, for Captain Waterhouse, in writing to Captain
Macarthur in the early part of the century, says : " 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 may be raised. He, therefore, ridiculed the idea of
artificial grasses being necessary." The opinions entertained by
Captain Waterhouse nearly 100 years ago have been amply verified
by subsequent experience.
Those who have done original w r ork to popularise Australian
grasses are : Mr. Walter Hill, late Colonial Botanist of Queens-
land, and Director of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, who was, I
believe, the first person in Australia to recommend the systematic
cultivation of, and carry out experiments with, the indigenous
grasses. Mr. F. M. Bailey, F.L.S., and the late Mr. K. T. Staiger,
F.L.S., who published electrotypes of some Queensland grasses,
with a few notes on their importance in pastures. The late Mr.
W. H. Bacchus, who published figures of some Victorian grasses,
with notes of his observations of them, and the late Rev. Dr. W.
Woolls, F.L.S., who published a paper on the grasses of New
South Wales. In none of these illustrations are any anatomical
It would be superfluous in this preface to enter upon the present
condition of Australian pastures and pasture plants, for in the
introduction, and in the synopsis of three special reports already
referred to, this subject is treated in a comprehensive way.
In the present volume I have not only endeavoured to show the
habit of growth of each grass that is figured and described a very
important matter from a pastoral and agricultural point of view
but to give full dissectional details of the inflorescence of each
species, so that no possible mistake can occur in identifying it.
The anatomical drawings are the first that have ever been made of
Australian grasses, and I have no doubt that they will be fully
appreciated by scientists, students, and others who have a desire
to be better acquainted with this important part of the Australian
flora. There is both a scientific and a popular description of the
economic value of each species that is figured ; the etymology of
the scientific names is also a feature of the book, it being my desire
to make it as popular as possible without in any way taking from
its value as a standard work upon the subject. A glossary of the
technical terms used in the description of Australian grasses is
also embodied in the book, so that any person can soon become
thoroughly acquainted with the subject should he be desirous of
All the drawings, from which the engravings were taken, were
made from herbarium specimens which I have collected, or have
had collected, in their native habitats. The anatomical parts have
been greatly magnified and drawn with the aid of the Camera
lucida, so that they can be depended upon as being correct. Those
persons Avho have had experience know the difficulty there is in
making accurate botanical drawings from herbarium specimens,
and will, I think, agree with me that great credit is due to Mr. E.
M. Grosse, the artist, for the careful way in which he has done his
part of the work.
To Messrs. F. and C. Bennett, the proprietors of the Town and
Country Journal, my thanks are due for the excellent engravings
which have been prepared at their establishment. The printing
and binding have been done at the Government Printing Office,
and it affords another proof of the excellence of the work performed
at that establishment.
The nomenclature adopted is the same as that used in Bentham's
" Flora Australiensis/' and I am indebted to that valuable work
for the botanical diagnosis of genera and species.
IT is aii old proverb that &ays " comparison's are odious," but I think
I will be pardoned if I preface this introduction by quoting the following
official figures from Mr. T. A. Coghlan's, " Seven Colonies of Australasia, for
1894," which show at a glance the value of five of the principal products
that were raised in Australia during the year 1892 : Wool, 17,855,824 ;
gold, 5,703,064 ; silver, 2,520,220 ; coal, 1,605,740 ; copper, 301,241.
These figures clearly indicate from, what product the principal wealth of this
country is obtained. The number of sheep in Australia in 1892 was
estimated at 101,637,179; and the number of cattle in the same year at
11,351,967. The value of the pastoral property was estimated in 1893
at over 200,000,000 (two hundred millions) sterling. If this enormous
sum represents the value of the pastoral industry, what must be the value of
the indigenous forage plants and grasses which provide feed for the millions
of animals that are now r grazing in this country ? I think it may be safely
said that very few, even amongst the most experienced pastoralists, ever look
at the matter from this point of view, yet it is the most important one. It
is the valuable herbage that is growing in this country, though it is not so
plentiful and varied in some districts as it used to be, that has made
Australia noted throughout the world for its rich pasturage. Shrewd business
men have been often heard to make the remark, " What would Australia do
without its wool " ? but very few persons, however, ever pause to think what
Australia would do without the indigenous herbage, which is really the
principal factor in creating this valuable product. It is also often remarked,
that the Australian climate is peculiarly favourable for the production of
high class wool. Admitted that this may have some influence, thoughtful
persons cannot close their eyes to the fact that good pasture is a more essential
Considering that the prosperity of the people on this continent greatly
depends, and will do so for many years to come, upon the quantity and also
the quality of the wool, beef, mutton, butter, tallow, hides, &c., that are
raised here, both for home consumption and for export ; it has been a subject
for remark that so little practical information, with the exception of my own
publications, about the comparative merits of the different species of forage-
plants and grasses that are indigenous to this country has been disseminated.
Many successful pastoralists and dairymen have admitted to me that they
knew very little about the forage-plants and grasses in their districts until
they saw my figures and read my descriptions of them.
As a means of giving reliable information to the rising generation, the
comparative merits of the indigenous forage-plants and grasses, indeed the
vegetation in general, might form a part of the curriculum of the national
education. If there were placed in all country State schools an enlarged
drawing of each valuable species of forage-plant and grass, that is peculiar
to the district in which the school was situated, with its botanical and common
name, together with a short popular description, and if possible analysis, it
might make a lasting impression upon the young mind, and would, most
probably, lead to valuable results in after years.
As long as a greater portion of this continent is devoted to depasturing
sheep and cattle and Australia intends to hold her own against the world in
the production of high-class wool, also in the matter of the frozen meat
export trade, it becomes of vital importance to the population that more
attention should be paid to the native forage plants and grasses than has
hitherto been the case and that some of them should be saved from exter-
mination by a proper system of conservation and even cultivation. There is
no gainsaying the fact that during the past twenty years or so large tracts
of country in the interior have been so overstocked and overrun with rabbits
and many valuable pasture plants have become so scarce that it would take
some years of careful conservation to bring many of them back to anything
like their original state. Being so closely fed down and often trampled
under foot the plants have little chance to recuperate, and their only natural
means of reproduction namely, by seed is also partially destroyed, and
every decade under present conditions will make matters worse. Moreover,
the paddocks being so constantly trampled upon are sometimes as hard as
the roads throughout the country. Under these circumstances it can hardly
be wondered at that some of the native grasses often present a harsh appear-
ance, and if it were not for the sharp points on many of their seeds some of
them would probably have been extinct long ago. These sharp-pointed seeds
naturally penetrate the earth and when rain falls to soften it they germinate,
and so the grasses are perpetuated in a sort of way. An occasionally good
season may to a slight extent remedy this, but observant and thoughtful
persons can see that in the near future more vigorous action will have to be
taken to keep the pastures up to something like their pristine condition or
the number of sheep and cattle will have to be considerably lessened, which
of course means the production of less marketable produce. It should also
be borne in mind that every fleece of wool which is produced takes a certain
amount of potash and other fertile substances out of the earth, and very
little so far has been done to restore these elements to the soil, except the
little that is returned in a natural way.
Overstocking and the rabbit pest on certain pastoral areas in the interior
of this country have already had an injurious effect upon some of the natural
herbage. On such areas some of the more valuable plants have been so
persistently eaten down that they are gradually dying out. Nor is this all,
for many noxious weeds, both indigenous and exotic, bad grasses, and pine
scrub are gradually occupying their place. So plentiful, indeed, have some
of these pests become that laws have been directed towards their extermina-
tion. In certain parts of the interior the native " spear," " corkscrew,"
" wire," and " three-awned spear " grasses, and also the " burr " weeds are
increasing. It is easy to account for the ever-widening area of their occu-
pation, because when old they are seldom or never eaten and are allowed to
seed at their own sweet will. The ground in many places being bare of
more nutritious herbage, the seeds of these noxious plants germinate readily
tinder ordinary conditions, and soon take possession of any unoccupied
land. Their dissemination in many parts of the country may be accounted
for by the fact that sheep and other animals will carry the " burrs " and
" spear-grass seeds " in their wool and often deposit them miles from the
jplants that bore them. I have recorded and published the names of over
200 exotic weeds that have become acclimatised in this country. All these,
of course, have not a prejudicial effect on wool or on the health of stock,
therefore I shall only list a few of the really bad ones. Should any persons
be desirous of consulting my published list of exotic weeds I would refer
them to the Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales for 1890, vol. I,
Botanical Name. Common Name.
Argemone mexicana, Linii. ... ... Mexican Poppy.
JBidens pilosa, Linn Cobblers' Pegs.
Centaurea calcitrapa, Linn. ... ... Star Thistle.
Centaurea melitensis, Linn Cockspur Thistle.
Centaurea solstitialis, Willd Cockspur Thistle.
Gircium arvense, Scop Corn Thistle.
Circium lanceolatum, Scop. Burr Thistle.
Emex australis, Steinh Three-cornered Jack.
Galium aparine, Linn. ... ... ... Burr-weed, Cleavers.
Kentrophyllum lanatum, D'C "Woolly Thistle.
Medicago minima, "Willd. Burr medick.
Nicotiana glauca, Grah Tree Tobacco.
Onopordon acanthium, Linn. ... ... Scotch Thistle.
Opuntia vulgar is, Mill Prickly Pear.
Rosa rubiginosa, Linn. ... ... ... Sweet Briar.
Tayetes glan dulifera, Sch. Stinking Eoger.
Xanthium spinosum, Linn. ... ... Bat-burst Burr.
Xantliium strumarium, Linn Ditch Burr.
The following is a list of some of the worst of the indigenous weeds :
Acce-na ovina, A. Cunn, Ac&na sanguisorbce, VM,Anisacantka bicupsis, F.V. M.,
Anisacantha divaricata, E. Br., Anisacantlia muricata, Moq., Calotis cune-
folia, E. Br., Calotis dentece, E. Br., Galotis hispidula, F.V.M., Calotis
lappulacea, Benth., Calotis scabiosifolia, Sond., Calotis scapigera, Hook,
Sclerolcena bicornis, Lincll., Tribulus terrestris, Linn., Tribulus cistoides,
Linn., and Tribulus liystrix. E. Br.
Undesirable grasses. It has been often remarked that several of the
native grasses whilst young are really good pasture plants, but at the season
of ripening their seeds, the latter are irritating and dangerous to the eyes
of sheep and often cause blindness. Moreover, the seeds with their adherent
awns not only become entangled in the wool which somewhat depreciates its
value, but they often enter vital parts and cause death, and no doubt
this, in a great measure, is correct. Unfortunately, when the grasses that
bear these long seed-awns become old, cattle and sheep seldom or never
eat them, consequently they grow and produce seed almost undisturbed.
After many years of careful observation, I have arrived at the conclusion
that the following species are most to be dreaded on account of their seed-
awns or sharp-pointed leaves : Aristidaarenana, Gaud. ; Aristida behriana,
F.V.M. ; Aristida calycina, R. Br. ; Aristida depressa, Retz. ; Aristida hygro-
metrica, E/. Br. ; Aristida leptopoda, Benth. ; Aristida ramosa, B>. Br. ; Aristida
stipoides, E/. Br, ; Aristida vagans, Cav. ; (these Aristidas are commonly
known as " three-awned spear grasses"); Heteropogon contortus, Eoern. et
Schult ; Heteropogon insiffnis, Thu. ; Pollinia irritans, Benth. ; Stipa
aristiglumis, F.Y.M. ; Stipa flavescens, Labill. ; Stipa micrantJia, Cav. ; Stipa
pubescens, E. Br. ; Stipa scabra, Lindl. ; Stipa semibarbafa, E. Br. ; Stipa
setacea, E.Br. (these Stipas are commonly known as "spear," "corkscrew," and
"wire" grasses) ; Triodia cunningliamii, Benth.; Triodia irritans, E. Br. ;
Triodia mitchellii, Benth. ; Triodia microstachya, E. Br. ; Triodia procera,
E. Br. ; Triodia pungens, E. Br. (these Triodias are commonly known as
" porcupine" and " spinifex" grasses ; the latter term, however, is a generic
one given to quite distinct grasses, therefore, must not be confounded with
them) ; and 'Eriaclme squarrosa, B. Br. ; thus making, in all, twenty-six
species, which is a little over 7 per cent, of the total recorded for the whole
of Australia not a very formidable array it must be admitted, still, of
sufficient importance to make their position felt, and somewhat dreaded, by
Supposed poisonous plants and fungoid growths. There are many trees,
shrubs, and herbs, which are largely used as fodder, especially so during
long droughts ; though there is still much to be cleared up with respect to
the actual value of certain of them. Even in the same district some persons
will assert that a particular species of plant is poisonous, while others,
whose testimony is equally reliable, will assert that it makes capital feed.
There are, perhaps, no more conflicting statements made than with regard
to the species of the genus Eremophila; and of the allied one Myoporum.
"Whilst I must admit that very little is known of the physiological properties
of the order Myoporinece, still I cannot close my eyes to the fact that both
cattle and sheep kept in country where these shrubs are plentiful eat them
with avidity and thrive on them, without any ill effects. Some persons
assert that these Myoporinous plants develop their poisonous properties
when in fruit, but whoever has studied the habits of the birds of Central
Australia will assure them that certain of these greatly depend upon the
fruits of these plants for their sustenance, which, in fact, are, in some
seasons, their principal food supply. Moreover, the aborigines, before they
tasted the sweets of civilisation, used to eat the fruits of several Myoporinous
There is no doubt that when cattle and sheep are taken from one district
to another where the natural herbage is somewhat dissimilar, it must have,
for a time at least, some effect upon their systems, especially when they are
taken from rolling downs of grass to country where shrubs and herbs pre-
dominate ; and this brings to mind a question which I think has not received
that attention from stock-owners that its importance justifies. It is the
mechanical action that hard-foliaged shrubs have upon the larynx of both
cattle and sheep which are not used to eating them. This irritation of the
larynx not only brings on laryngitis, but sometimes tends to bring on inflam-
mation of the intestines. Partner, when hungry sheep or cattle have partaken
too freely of some leguminous plants, especially when in flower or seed, they
have died. But this is caused during the process of digestion, when great
quantities of gases are made, which cause an abnormal distention of the
stomach, thus preventing the lungs working freely, and, of course, strangling
the animals. On this account many leguminous plants are called poisonous
which are not really so. Still these causes could not account for all the
sheep that die somewhat mysteriously. I use the word mysteriously advisedly,
for many plants have been received by me marked poisonous which, on
examination, have proved to be quite harmless. Nor is my case a singular
one. Others have had the same experience. No doubt there are some
poisonous plants in the country ; but unless animals are sickly, weakly, or
hard pressed for food, their natural instincts will lead them to avoid browsing
upon them. There is a far more insiduous enemy to contend against in the
parisitic fungi which affect certain grasses and other herbage, not only in
the damp coastal districts, but even into the far interior. Some years ago I
drew attention to the increase of parasitic fungi on certain valuable grasses,
and I then said, what I think now, that fungoid growths on grasses and
other herbage is the primary cause of many sheep dying so mysteriously.
For there is abundant proof of the destructive agency of microscopic fungi
both on animals and flowering plants that have not sufficient vigour to repel
them. The life history of these native fungoid growths is well worth studying
by specialists, if only to show what their effects are upon animals. The
following is a list of the native grasses which I have seen badly affected with
parasitic fungi: Aristida ramosa, B. Er., " Three- awned spear grass";
Chloris truncata, B. Br., "Star" or " windmill grass" ; Eragroslis leptostachya,
Steud, " Love grass " ; 'Eriocliloa punctata, Hamilt, " Early spring grass " \
Hierocliloa rarifl-ora, Hook, " Sweet-scented holygrass " ; Panicum effusum,
B. Br., " Branched panick grass " ; Panicum mitckeUii, " Mitchell's panick
grass " ; Paspalum scrobiculatum, Linn., " Ditch millet " ; Sporobolus indicus,
B. Br. ; and the variety elongahts, " Parramatta " or "Tussock grass."
I have been often asked whether I favour the annual burning off of grasses.
Except in three cases, I am decidedly against burning off, for the following
reasons : 1. It destroys millions of grass seeds which occasional good seasons
may have brought to maturity, thereby destroying the only natural means
for the reproduction of the grasses. A fire also destroys many valuable
salsolaceous and other plants. 2. After burning off, if favourable weather
ensues, new growth is made quickly, and sheep turned into such pasturage