Setaria pumila (Poir.) Roem. & Schult.


Author: D. B. Hoare

Setaria pallide-fusca (Schumach.) Stapf. & C.E. Hubb.

Common names

Garden bristle grass, hairy-tail grass, yellow bristlegrass, foxtail, Queensland pigeon grass (Australia), cat's tail grass (Fiji)


Panicoideae; Panicodae, Paniceae

  Origin and geographic distribution

There are about 110 species of Setaria from tropical and warm temperate regions of the world. Setaria pumila occurs in the tropics worldwide and is probably native to Micronesia.


A loosely tufted annual grass that grows to a height of 300-900 mm tall. The leaf blades are 45-170 mm long, 5-9 mm wide. The ligule is a fringed membrane or a fringe of hairs. The culm nodes are glabrous. The inflorescence is a spike-like panicle, normally ten times longer than wide. Spikelet axes are subtended by 6-10 bristles that end beyond the spikelet and are often bright yellow in colour, but sometimes dark purple-brown. The spikelets are in pairs, not in distinct long-and-short combinations, 2.0-2.8 mm long. Spikelet-bearing axes persistent. Spikelets with involucre of bristles. The female-fertile spikelets are dorsiventrally compressed, falling with the glumes. Lemmas are firmer than the glumes, firmer than the glumes, rugose, hairless, have the margins tucked into the palea, are 1-5 nerved and are awnless and apiculate. There are two relatively large, membranous, awnless glumes, the lower one of which is 3-nerved. The lower lemma is very finely rugose.


A relatively good natural grazing species, although leaf production is moderately low (Van Wyk & Van Oudtshoorn 1999). It is a serious weed in some areas, especially since it only germinates late in the season once most control measures have already been applied. The grass can be made into a good hay. In Lesotho sheaves of grain are tied together using rope made from culms of S. pumila that are twisted together. In some areas this grass plays an important role in stabilising bare soil to protect it from erosion.


Chromosome base number, x = 9 and 10.

  Leaf blade anatomy

C4 photosynthetic pathway.


None reported and considered to be non-toxic.


Occurs in tropical areas, usually where the annual rainfall exceeds 500 mm per annum. Grows in disturbed places, including gardens, cultivated areas, old lands and along the side of roads, especially where additional water collects in the rainy season.

  Soil requirements

Grows in a wide range of soil types, including disturbed soils, gardens, cultivated areas and old lands.

  Propagation and planting

Barbed seeds carried in fur, feathers, or clothing.

  Growth and development

Summer growing species.

  Diseases and pests

None known.


Moderate to slow-growing, although this can be improved by soil fertilization.


Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)

HYpermedia for Plant Protection (HYPPA)


Acocks, J.P.H. 1988. Veld types of South Africa (3rd edn.). Mem. Bot. Surv. S. Afr. No 28. Government printer, Pretoria.

Gibbs-Russell, G.E., Watson, L., Koekemoer, M., Smook, L. Barker, N.P., Anderson, H.M., Dallwitz, M.J. 1989. Grasses of southern Africa. Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa, No. 58, National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

Van Wyk, E. & Van Oudtshoorn, F. 1999. Guide to grasses of southern Africa. Briza Publications, Arcadia, South Africa.