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


Ehrharta erecta (Panic Veldt grass)

Kingdom:   Plantae
(unranked):  Angiosperms
(unranked):  Monocots
(unranked):  Commelinids
Order:  Poales
Family:  Poaceae
Tribe:  Ehrharteae
Genus:  Ehrharta
Species:  E. erecta
Binomial name: Ehrharta erecta
Common name:  Panic veldt grass, Panic veldtgrass

Ehrharta erecta is an aggressive, slender, loosely tufted, shade-tolerant, perennial grass native to southern and eastern Africa (i.e. Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, eastern Zaire, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland) and Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula.  It is now an invasive species in New Zealand, United States, Hawaii, Australia, southern Europe, and China.
Ehrharta erecta was introduced to New Zealand as an agriculture plant and in birdseeds. It is now described as having one of the most spectacular increases in abundance and range of any exotic species to have invaded New Zealand. This highly invasive grass is now found in almost the whole of New Zealand, including montane environs. It has invaded a wide variety of habitats, in managed and non-managed areas, in natural areas including our off-shore islands, openings in native forests, on coastal bluffs and on sand dunes.

Because it seeds all year round it develops large populations very quickly. The seeds are dispersal by wind, water and by birds.  It also spread vegetatively. It will dominate an area, restricting the growth and regeneration of indigenous plants and eventually will eliminate smaller native species. 

Ehrharta erecta normally grows to about 30 to 80 centimetres, although it can reach two meters in height. The leaves are pale green, soft, broad, with short hairs. It often dies back in drought conditions. The erect seed heads are on >40cm long stalks and are open panicles of narrow spikes. The upper lemma (bracts enclosing the grasses floret) are hairless, wrinkled and has no awn (a long bristle).




   


It has relatively weak and fibrous roots and the plant is easily removed by hand pulling.




 The leaves tapper to a point that is flat in profile.

  

 


Inflorescences borne on stems, 10-80cm long and grow at any time during the year. The stem can be upright or curved, often branched near the base. 
  

There is a rapid production of 3mm long and oval-shaped, shiny seeds. They range from immature green to a bleached, dry appearance. Seeding occurs every 6 weeks and viability approaches 100%.