Nassella neesiana

Chilean needle grass

Family: Poaceae

Origin: South America

Close up of Chilean needle grass seeds.
It has bright green leaves which are flat and rough to touch when stroked downwards towards the base.
Photo credit: Holly Cox

Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) status

  • National Pest Plant Accord Species
  • Whole region — Eradication

View more about the RPMP statuses

General description

Erect, tufted, perennial grass < 1 m high. Leaves are < 5 mm wide. Flowerheads are large, drooping and purplish. Seed head is hard and hairy, and has pointed callus with a very sharp, penetrating base. Seeds have long hair.

What you need to know

To help protect our environment:

  • You must not breed, distribute, release or sell Chilean needle grass. As Chilean needle grass is a National Pest Plant Accord species, these restrictions apply within the Auckland region and across the whole of New Zealand.
  • You must not plant Chilean needle grass within the Auckland region.

Auckland Council will control Chilean needle grass at all sites where it is known to occur.

If you see Chilean needle grass anywhere in the Auckland region, please report it to Auckland Council at


Pasture, grasslands, roadsides, open areas, cliffs, lake and forest margins, lawns.


Seeds dispersed by attachment to livestock. Human-mediated dispersal through movement of contaminated machinery, clothing and hay.

Impact on environment

Highly invasive in pasture and sharp seeds can penetrate pelts and cause blindness in livestock.


Recommended approaches

Do not attempt to undertake control of this species. Please report to Auckland Council.

Caution: When using any herbicide or pesticide please read the label thoroughly to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

Close up of a hand holding Chilean needle grass.
It has distinctive reddish purple seed heads.
Photo credit: Holly Cox
Chilean needle grass growing in a rocky field.
When the seeds mature, the seed heads fade to a light brown.
Photo credit: Holly Cox
Close up of Chilean needle grass.
The seeds are hard and sharply pointed.
Photo credit: Holly Cox
Chilean needle grass in a field.
Needle grass seeds have backward-pointing bristles making them hard to remove once they are embedded in skin.
Photo credit: Holly Cox