T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network

Spiniflex sericeus (Kowhangatara)

Kingdom: Plantae
(Unranked): Angiosperms
(Unranked): Monocots
(Unranked): Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Genus: Spinifex
Species: Spiniflex sericeus 
Synonym:  Spinifex hirsutus
Common names: Kowhangatara, Beach Spinifex, Spinifex, Coastal Spinifex

Spinifex sericeus is the most important native sand-binding grass in New Zealand. Spinifex favours dunes immediately behind the beach. It can tolerate high winds, salt spray and shifting sands.
The male and female flowers are produced on seperate plants and the distinctive spikey heads are produced by the female plant.
Once autumn nears the spiky seed heads of Spinifex grass, powered by wind, roll along the beach until it gets trapped. Then the fine sand submerges the seed balls which then releases its seeds to restart the cycle of growth and dispersion.  If the heads are trapped where they become saturated by the tide they breakup and these bits are then carried to other suitable areas to germinate.
The seeds grow into perennial grass that is grayish green of colour with a hairy surface. Its rhizomes grow into multiple metres long runners with buds developing into new male and female plants that bloom during spring and early summer.
This indigenous sand binding grass is important place in giving some stability to foreshore dunes on windswept beaches and prevents dunes from moving inland. Dunes naturally take the role of shore protectors in both directions, from incoming surf of the sea and filtering the water coming from wetlands that are close to the shore. 
The shore birds like Caspian terns, the threatened dotterels, oystercatchers, gulls, insects and reptiles these dunes are their home and breeding ground.

The tumbleweed like flowerheads before being released.

The tumbleweed like flower heads that can be up to 30cm wide.

Spiniflex sericeus in very dry conditions.