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Natural populations

Previously of the genus Danthonia, the new name of Austrodanthonia was proposed by Linder (1997). A widespread perennial winter grass, Austrodanthonia setacea occurs in semi-arid areas, south of 30 degree latitude [7]. Recorded from a wide range of habitats, often growing with A. caespitosa [7, 17, 43]. It is scattered throughout the eastern part of the region, more common in the southern parts [17] and widespread throughout the south west to the Nullabor where it is absent [7]. It grows in sand, loam and clay, with a moderate salt tolerance [44, 64, 72]. A morphological difference is noted between the Western Australian population and the populations in the rest of country [42].

Flowering and seeds

It flowers in spring and summer [7, 16, 43, 44, 47] or in response to rain [43]. The seed collecting time in WA is in December to January with sowing of seed in autumn [64]. Fruit is dispersed by wind or unintentionally by animals [90]. When propagating, use fresh seed before certain dormancy sets in [93]. After broadcasting fresh seed, Austrodanthonia is quick to establish, with good tussock growth within 12 months (pers. comm. Paul Gibson-Roy, Grassy Groundcover Project]. If broadcast by hand, from the first autumn rains in March, it generally takes 2 years to establish [40].

Cultivation and uses

A valuable forage in winter, as the grass makes most of its growth in late winter to early summer, following winter rains as temperatures rise [17, 18]. Wallaby grasses grow well under heavy grazing [47] and withstands drought, high frost and increases with increased stocking rates [38].

Key descriptors:
Climate parameters
Mean annual rainfall: 200-2450 mm
Rainfall distribution pattern: uniform or winter
Mean annual temperature: 9-20 °C
Mean max. temperature of the hottest month: 17-34 °C
Mean min. temperature of the coldest month: -1-8 °C
Frosts (approx. no. per year): greater than 20
Frost intensity: light to moderate (0 to -5°C)
Altitude: 0-1000 metres
Tolerance of climate extremes
Drought: known to be moderately drought tolerant
Frost: tolerates frosts in the 0° to -5°C range
Soil factors
Texture: clay loam, heavy clay (greater than 50% clay), light to medium clay (35-50% clay) or loam, sandy loam, sandy clay loam
Soil pH reaction: acidic (less than 6.5)
Soil depth: skeletal to shallow (less than 30 cm)
Drainage: well-drained
Salinity: slightly to moderately saline or non-saline
Biological traits under cultivation
Habit: evergreen grass
Longevity: short-lived less than 15 years
Root system: shallow and spreading

References

[7] Sharp D, Simon BK (2002) AusGrass: Grasses of Australia. CD-ROM, Version 1.0., Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra, and Environmental Protection Agency, Queensland.

[17] Cunningham GM, Mulham WE, Milthorpe PL, Leigh JH (1992) Plants of western New South Wales. Inkata Press, Port Melbourne, Victoria.

[38] Mitchell M, Miller M (1990) The identification of some common native grasses in Victoria - a set of compilation notes. Rutherglen Research Institute, Victoria.

[42] Flora of Australia (1982 to 2007) Volumes 2 to 47, CSIRO Publishing and the Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra.

[43] National Herbarium of New South Wales (2008) PlantNET - Flora of New South Wales. (Online resource) http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/floraonline.htm (Accessed: February 2008).

[44] Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Environment and Conservation (2008) FloraBase: the Western Australian flora. (Online resource) http://florabase.calm.wa.gov.au/ (Accessed: February 2008).

[47] Lodge G (2000) Wallaby grass - a domesticated grass. Agfact P2.5.39, NSW Department of Agriculture. (Online resource) http://www.agric.nsw.gov.au/reader/past-varieties/p2539.htm

[64] Water and Rivers Commission (2003) Revegetating with native grasses in the Avon Catchment. Water Notes WN31, Government of Western Australia, Perth.

[90] Flynn S, Turner RM, Dickie JB (2004) Seed Information Database (Release 7.0, October 2006). (Online database) http://www.kew.org/data/sid/ (Accessed: July 2007).

Internet links

FloraBase Western Australia Flora Online – species description & distribution: http://florabase.calm.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/17945

PlantNet NSW Flora Online – species description and distribution: http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl= sp&name=Austrodanthonia~setacea< /FONT>

South Australia Flora Online – species description & distribution: http://www.flora.sa.gov.au/cgi-bin/texhtml.cgi?form=speciesfacts&family=Gramineae&genus=Danthonia&species=setacea

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