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Spinifex / Triodia

Family Poaceae

Spinifex / Triodia
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Spinifex / Triodia • Family Poaceae
The Poaceae family of flowering plants is a group commonly called ‘grasses’, containing over 600 genera and over 9,000 species.

This family also contains the genus Spinifex pertaining to the ‘coastal grasses’, although it does not contain the ‘spinifex grasses’ found throughout the outback and arid regions of central Australia, who belong to the genus Triodia.

Unlike the ‘coastal grasses’, Triodia is a large genus of tussock forming grasses that are endemic to Australia, which is more commonly known as ‘spinifex’ and is often what people mean when they talk about spinifex and spinifex grass.

The genus Triodia are a perennial Australian grass that have pointed leaves, that are often sharp.

The Australian tribe of grasses, Triodieae or ‘spinifex’, was well known to the early explorers of the continent’s centre. The tough sharpened leaf blades of this ‘porcupine grass’ were a dreaded obstacle to the adventurers’ vain pursuit of fertile lands and inland seas - a real Australian ‘thorn in the side’. For most, the endless spinifex grasslands symbolised a harsh and monotonous, if not hostile Australian desert, a place to heroically endure rather than celebrate.

The hummock grasses in the genus Triodia is said to dominate over 20% of Australia's mainland, growing on low nutrient soils found in sand plains and rocky ranges of the arid centre, as well as on rocky outcrops along the coasts.

Spinifex grasses can be divided into two groups known as ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ spinifexes.

The main difference is that the hard spinifex group does not contain resin, usually forming dense circular hummocks of rigid spiny leaves. They sometimes grow outwards with age into rings measuring 2-3 metres across, usually with a bare or dead centre.

The soft spinifexes are less densely packed, have less spiny leaves and form a continuous cover like tussock grasses. They also frequently exude sticky resin from the stems and leaves, contributing to the intensity of some of the outback grass fires. The sticky resin also collect to the underside of motor vehicles that drive through this type of spinifex grass and have been known to cause the vehicles to catch alight under certain circumstances.

Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Genus: Spinifex
Genus: Triodia

Spinifex / Triodia • Images

Hard Spinifex (Triodia basedowii)
Arrernte name: Aywerte
Pronounced: a-YOOR-ta
Hard Spinifex dies from the centre, eventually forming rings 2-3 metres in diameter.

Spinifex  / Triodia • Images

Bull Spinifex (Triodia longiceps)
Arrernte name: Aywerte
Pronounced: a-YOOR-ta
The Bull Spinifex prefers the limestone soils and rocky outcrops along the range habitats.

Spinifex  / Triodia • Other links


1 Hansjörg Eichler Scientific Research Fund Report - Leaf blades or floral clades - A guide to spinifex phylogeny by Jim Mant, Australian National University, Retrieved August 29, 2008
2 Macquarie University, Hummock Grasslands in Australia, Retrieved August 29, 2008
3 FloralBase -the Western Australian Flora - Poaceae, Retrieved August 29, 2008
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