Elephant grass

Native to Africa, elephant grass is a tufted perennial grass that was introduced to Australia as forage for livestock. It 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 productive tropical forage grass, but wild populations can invade native bushland.

Elephant grass is not a prohibited or restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Pennisetum purpureum

Similar species

  • Sugar cane


  • Tufted perennial grass up to 4m tall, similar in appearance to sugar cane but shorter and with narrower leaves.
  • Leaves are pale green, up to 4cm wide, with strong midrib tapering to fine point.
  • Flower heads are large, yellow to purple, up to 30cm long, with fine bristles along spike.


  • Often grows wild on roadsides.
  • Able to persist in disturbed areas, out-competing native vegetation.


  • Common in coastal areas of Queensland.

Life cycle

  • Flowers in summer and autumn.



  • Forms bamboo-like, densely tufted clumps that invade bushland vegetation.

How it is spread

  • Spread by wind, moving water, and seeds attached to fur, clothing and vehicles.
  • Also spread by humans moving plants or plant parts.
  • Garden plantings and dumping of garden waste in bushland are main sources of infestation.


Physical control

  • Graze, dig or doze out.

Herbicide control

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

Legal requirements

  • Elephant grass is not a prohibited or restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014. However, by law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants under their control.
  • Local governments must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants in their area. This plan may include actions to be taken on Elephant grass. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.

Further information