Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum, (Forssk.) Chiov)
Origin: Northern and Eastern Africa and South-western Asia
Size: up 150 cm in height
The Purple Fountain Grass is a perennial grass and can grow up to 150 cm in height. Grows as a clump, with long, slender and arching leaves often hairy; the flowers grow as dense, long, cylindrical, bristly panicles, the colour varies from light-green (immature) to buff (mature), under dry or sunny conditions can be pink to purple. The fruit is an oblong caryopsis with many seeds. Flowers from March to September. The common name “Fountain Grass” comes from the appearance of the leaves and flower heads forming a spray from the base of the plant.
This species is native from North and East Africa and Southwest Asia, favours arid and semi-arid environments, although, can grow in a wide variety of habitats: roadsides, grasslands, deserts, river banks, shrub lands, coastal areas, dunes, woodlands and disturbed areas. Prefers mild winters and moist summers, and sunny places, can grow in different types of soils, and cannot tolerate freezing temperatures.
Fountain Grass was introduced in USA in the late 1800’s as ornamental, in Australia in 1930, in New Zealand in 1940 and it is listed as an invasive species in South Africa, Australia and USA. Recently it has been registered in some areas in Europe, where it is considered as invasive (Canary Islands, Sicily and Portugal). The species can cause ecological changes in the soils where it grows, competing with native plant, also the dry biomass increases fire frequency and spread by increasing fuel loads.