Chilean needle grass

Common name:  Chilean needle grass
Scientific name:  Nassella neesiana
Management programme:  Exclusion

Why is it a pest?

Chilean needle grass can cause negative effects to farming and economic well-being. It grows into thick stands, leaving no room for other native and exotic grassland species. Stock won’t eat it and the sharp seeds injure livestock and result in the downgrading of wool, skins and hides.

Lambs are particularly vulnerable to seeds getting in their eyes, causing blindness. The point of the seed is extremely sharp and hairy so catches onto passing animals, vehicles and humans. As a result, it can be transported long distances to new sites.

What does it look like?

Chilean needle grass is a tufted (a bunch or collection of grass growing together at the base) plant growing up to 1m.

Its leaves are bright green and harsh to the touch. Its flowers have a purple tinge and ripen into hard, sharp seeds with long twisting tails. These help the seed to get into the animal’s skin and the soil.

What are the rules?

While there are no rules for landowners in Otago regarding Chilean needle grass, if it gets into Otago, ORC would take the lead role in control. Over the life of the pest plan (10 years), the goal is to stop Chilean needle grass establishing in Otago.

How will we achieve that?

ORC will be responsible for controlling the plant if it gets into Otago. Please let us know if you think you have spotted Chilean needle grass by calling us on 0800 474 082 or emailing             

How can I control it?

If you think you have Chilean needle grass, please let us know and we will take care of controlling it.

Management programme

Page last updated 26 June 2024.