Gallon's curse (Cenchrus biflorus)



Like other Cenchrus species, Gallon’s curse is considered a weed due to the easily spread spiny burrs. Under the right conditions these grasses can grow rapidly and form dense infestations. Burrs can cause injury to stock and people.


Native to northern Africa and India. It is a widespread weed of native pastures throughout the western Kimberley region in Western Australia. Also present in the Gulf region of Queensland and throughout the Northern Territory. Mainly found growing in areas that experience monsoonal summers.

Not currently known to be present in New South Wales.


Plants reproduce by seed only. The burrs easily attach to clothing or animals, spreading to new locations.


Flowers from April to August.


An annual grass growing to 90 cm tall.


  • branched and slender


  • alternate along the stem
  • the leaf sheath (area where the leaf wraps around the stem) is open along most of its length
  • 2–25 cm long and 2–7 mm wide
  • a fringe of hairs, 1.3–2 mm long, occurs at the leaf base

Seed head

  • cylindrical
  • 2–15 cm long and 9–12 mm wide
  • green, yellow or brown in colour


  • spines are fused together in the lower third, forming a small dish or narrow cup
  • tips of the longer spines have small downward pointing barbs
  • spines 5–8 mm long


  • encased and shed within the burr
  • oblong or roundish
  • 1.1–1.3 mm long


Gallon’s curse prefers dry sandy soils with an annual rainfall of 250–650 mm. It tolerates a range of climates, ranging from humid tropical and sub-tropical climates to arid and semi-arid environments. It will grow in woodlands, shrub lands and native grasslands. An advantageous plant that can quickly establish on disturbed soils, including crops, pastures and roadsides. 


Written by Rachele Osmond

Reviewed by Rod Ensbey


Brink, M (2006) Cenchrus biflorus Roxb. in Brink, M & Belay, G (eds) PROTA 1: Cereals and pulses/Céréales et legumes sec. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands. Available at Accessed September 2014.

Department of the Environment (2011) Weeds in Australia: Cenchrus biflorus, Australian Government. Available September 2014.

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

Mullen, CL, Dellow, JJ & McCaffery, AC (2012), Spiny burrgrass PRIMEFACT. Available at   Accessed September 2014.

Simon, BK and Alfonso, Y (2011) Grasses of Australia: Cenchrus biflorus, AusGrass2. Available at: Accessed September 2014.

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There is no specific control measures documented for Gallon’s curse. Control and management practices used for Mossman River grass (Cenchrus echinatus) may be used for the control of other noxious Cenchrus species.

Being annual, the key to control and management is to prevent seeding and reduce the seed bank. Use a combination of control methods—pasture management, physical and herbicide control— and always conduct monitoring and follow-up treatments. To reduce the risk of seed spread, property hygiene procedures should be in place. This will give the best chances of success.

Pasture management

Maintain a vigorously growing perennial pasture with little to no bare space. This will provide strong competition against the invasion of Gallon’s curse. Avoid heavy grazing on pastures with only small infestations as bare patches of ground provide the opportunity for it to quickly grow and set seed.

Physical control

For individual plants and small infestations, manually remove plants by hand or hoe. Remove as much of the root system as possible. Treat at the seedling stage of growth and before the seed head emerges. Repeat treatments will be required as new seedlings emerge.

Herbicide control

Herbicides registered for use on Cenchrus species should be applied when plants are actively growing and before the seed head emerges. This is usually in summer, but under optimum growing conditions can be year round. Use a foliar spray application.

Herbicide options

Contact your local council weeds officer for control advice for Gallon's curse (Cenchrus biflorus).

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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.

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Reviewed 2014