Photo guide to weeds

Elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum)

  • Photograph of the bunched stems of the Elephant grass plant
    Elephant grass

General information

A native of Africa, elephant grass was introduced into Australia as forage for livestock. Elephant grass is also used as an ornamental and structural landscaping plant. Elephant grass has been widely planted as a windbreak and is still recommended as a highly-productive tropical forage grass.

Elephant grass is not a declared pest plant under Queensland legislation.

Scientific name

Pennisetum purpureum

Similar species
  • Sugar cane
  • A tufted perennial grass that can grow in stands up to 4m high.
  • Pale-green leaves up to 4cm in width, with a strong midrib tapering to a fine point.
  • Large flower heads range in colour from yellow to purple, and can be up to 30cm in length.
  • Each flower head has fine bristles along the spike.
  • Similar in appearance to sugar cane but with narrower leaves and does not grow as high.
  • Often seen growing wild on roadsides.
  • Ability to persist in disturbed areas, out-competing native vegetation.
  • Garden plantings and dumping of garden waste in bushland main sources of infestation.
  • Native to Africa.
  • Common in coastal areas of Queensland and New South Wales.
  • Spreads by wind, moving water and seeds attached to fur, clothing and vehicles.
  • Also spread by humans moving plants or plant parts.


  • Forms bamboo-like, densely tufted clumps that invade bushland vegetation.
  • The best form of weed control is prevention. Treat weed infestations when they are small - do not allow weeds to establish.
  • Ways to prevent weed spread

Physical control

  • Can be grazed or dug/dozed out.

Herbicide control

  • Glyphosate can be used to control elephant grass under the General Weed Control Section under PERMIT 11463.
  • Read the label carefully before use. Always use the herbicide in accordance with the directions on the label.

Biological control

  • There is no biological control agent available for elephant grass.
Declaration details
  • Not a declared species under Queensland legislation but may be declared under local government law.

Last updated 18 February 2013