Espartillo - broad kernel (Amelichloa caudata)



Espartillo is an invasive perennial tussock grass that invades pastures, native grasslands and stream banks in temperate climates.

Espartillo is unpalatable and has little nutritive value for stock. It has infested pastures, native grasslands, riparian areas and other areas of environmental importance. It is also known to invade lucerne crops.

Found along roadsides and disturbed areas, it can quickly encroach into neighbouring properties and bushland, particularly if there is a lot of bare ground. Once established, espartillo is a difficult weed to manage and control.


Native to Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, espartillo is considered a weed in New Zealand, USA, Italy and Spain. In its native range of Argentina and in California, USA, it  is a troublesome weed of lucence crops.

Espartillo was first recorded in NSW in the 1950s and is present in a few localised areas of NSW. The concern with espartillo is that under the right conditions, it may quickly increase its range and density. It is now found throughout the Riverina, western slopes and plains regions of NSW. It is of particular concern in the New England and Liverpool Plains regions of the state.

In Victoria, espartillo is mostly located in the central districts of Maryborough, Dunolly and Clunes where it continues to spread. In Tasmania it is located as isolated infestations on Flinders Island and near Hobart, and is subject to an eradication program.

This species has a much wider distribution than Amelichloa brachychaeta.


Espartillo reproduces only by seed. Seeds are produced in open pollinated panicle seedheads and in self-pollinated spikelets at the base of the plant.  Most spread is by stock, wildlife and humans. Seeds have awns that can attach to fur, wool and clothing. Seed can also be spread by vehicle movement and water.


A perennial grass. Seeds germinate in autumn and seedlings grow slowly through the winter. Growth rates increase during spring. Flowering stems develop in late spring and continue throughout the summer, provided enough moisture is available. Growth slows again or even ceases during the following winter, with new tillers developing in the spring.


An erect tussock forming grass that grow 75–100 cm high. Broad kernel espartillo is very similar to narrow kernal espartillo (Amelichloa brachychaeta), and the two species are difficult to tell apart, except for the following differences:

  • Broad kernal espartillo has a partly hairy seed coat; and a grain that is relatively broad (2-3 mm long and 1-1.4 mm wide). It produces stem seeds only in the lower leaf sheafs. 
  • Narrow kernal espartillo has a completely hairy seed coat; and a grain that is relatively narrow (2-3 mm long and  0.9-1.0 mm wide). It produces stem seeds in both the upper and lower leaf sheaths.

Espartillo is also similar in appearance to the native spear grass.

If left untreated, espartillo tussocks can grow up to 1 m wide. The centre of the plant dies back, leaving a seed rich mulch.


  • leaf blade is stiff, flattened or tightly rolled, up to 50 cm long and 1.5–2.5 mm wide, rough to touch
  • leaf sheath is smooth on the surface with hairy edges
  • ligule (membranous structure where the leaf blade and leaf sheath meet) up to 0.5 mm long with tufted hairs on each side


  • 15– 25 cm long and 2–3 cm wide
  • located at the top of the plant
  • brownish purple in colour
  • consists of groups of widely spaced branches that contain many awned seeds
  • produces seeds that can be pollinated


  • produced in the seedhead and within the lower leaf sheaths at the base of the stem
  • seeds produced in the leaf sheath are self-pollinating
  • yellow-brown in colour
  • 2–3 mm long and 1–1.4 mm wide
  • partially hairy


Espartillo thrives in temperate grasslands. It occurs as a weed of roadsides, disturbed areas, open forests, grazing land, native grasslands and waterways. 


Written by Rachele Osmond.

Reviewed by Rod Ensbey.


Department of the Environment (2011) Weeds in Australia: Amelichloa brachychaeta. Australian Government. Available at: identification/index.html 

Department of the Environment (2011) Weeds in Australia: Amelichloa caudata. Australian Government. Available at: identification/index.html 

Hosking JR, Sainty GR, Jacobs SWL & Dellow JJ (in prep) The Australian WeedBOOK

Parsons, WT and Cuthbertson, EG (2001) Noxious weeds of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.

University of Queensland (2011) Factsheet - Amelichloa caudata, Environmental Weeds of Australia for Biosecurity Queensland.

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Always treat small infestations to prevent them from becoming large ones. Once established, espartillo is very difficult to control. Treating plants before flowering and seed set can be advantageous. Always check the leaf bases for seeds as these can be produced without any visual seed head forming.

In small infestations, clumps can be dug out and removed. Always dispose of the grass in an appropriate manner to prevent further spread. After removal from the site, plants can be dried out and burnt to destroy plant material.


Seedlings are susceptible to cultivation. This needs to occur before new plants start to produce seeds. Winter cropping and repeated cultivation can be effective in cropping situations.

Pasture management

Espartillo is an advantageous grass that can quickly invade rundown and degraded pastures. Avoid heavy and continuous grazing. Light stocking rates and rotational or strip grazing will help to maintain a vigorous and competitive pasture. This may assist in slowing down an invasion of espartillo. Treat individual plants that emerge by manual removal or possible spot spraying.

Herbicide options

Contact your local council weeds officer for control advice for Espartillo - broad kernel (Amelichloa caudata).

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Legal requirements

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Noxious Weeds (Weed Control) Order 2014 published in the NSW Government Gazette, detailing weeds declared noxious in New South Wales, Australia, under the Noxious Weeds Act 1993. The Order lists the weed names, the control class and the control requirements for each species declared in a Local Control Authority area.

Area Class Legal requirements
All of NSW 5 Restricted Plant
The requirements in the Noxious Weeds Act 1993 for a notifiable weed must be complied with

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW Invasive Plants and Animals Enquiry Line on 1800 680 244 or send an email to

Reviewed 2014