Setaria palmifolia

Palm grass

Family: Poaceae

Origin: India

Large cluster of palm grass.
A large leaved grass from India that likes a range of habitats from native forest to riparian margins. Palm grass forms large dense clumps of plants and has dense roots that extend under the surface of the ground.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow

Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) status

  • Hauraki Gulf Controlled Area Notice pest
  • Whole region — Sustained control

View more about the RPMP statuses

General description

Large, dense, perennial grass. Root mass is dense and rhizomatous. Stems are rounded. Leaves are large, elongate, < 80 x 12 cm, palm-like and pleated. Flowers are held in oval, elongated spikelets and borne in large branched clusters on hairy flowering stems in summer.

What you need to know

To help protect our environment:

  • you must not breed, distribute, release or sell palm grass within the Auckland region
  • you must not plant palm grass within the Auckland region, unless you are transferring an existing plant on your land to another location within the boundaries of the same property
  • you must destroy any palm grass on land that you occupy if it has been planted in breach of the above rules and you are directed to do so by an authorised person.


Damp areas, urban forest, forest and riparian margins, roadsides, disturbed areas.


Seeds dispersed by birds, water and soil movement. Vegetative spread from rhizomes, dispersed by feral pigs. Human-mediated dispersal through dumping of garden waste.

Impact on environment

Forms dense stands, displacing native plant species and preventing recruitment. Rapid decomposition of leaf litter may increase nutrient cycling rates and facilitate invasion by other weeds.


Site Management

Follow up treated areas 3 times per year. Encourage natural regeneration of native plants or replant treated areas where possible after 2-3 treatments to establish dense ground cover and minimise reinvasion.

Recommended approaches

Physical control

Method: Dig out.

Plant parts requiring disposal: Seeds and rhizomes.

Disposal options: Remove to greenwaste or landfill if practical.


Biocontrol is currently not available for this species.

Community agrichemical control recommendations

Basic Growsafe certified: Foliar spray with 200ml glyphosate green per 10L of water.

Certified Handler/Experienced agrichemical user: Foliar spray with 200ml glyphosate green per 10L of water and 20ml penetrant.

Safety notes

Has irritating hairs on the plant, wear protective clothing when handling.

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

Palm grass growing wild.
Palm grass leaves are unique in that they have pleats in them and as the wind moves through they leaves they make a unique rustling sound. Flower heads are borne on stems that stick up above the drooping leaves.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Large bush of palm grass.
Palm grass is most commonly found on roadsides where parts of the plant may have been dumped as part of garden waste. Pieces of the rhizomes will re-sprout if moved in soil.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Close up of palm grass flowers.
Flowers are typically pollinated by wind, and produce large amounts of seed. Palm grass seeds are eaten and spread by birds, and can also be spread by water and soil movement.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Palm grass with dried leaves.
Palm grass may be grazed by cattle if it grows on fencelines and is not known to be poisonous. The dense roots and leaves can form dense clumps and out-complete native plants.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Close up of palm grass leaves.
Palm grass is called such because it is the only grass that has leaves that look like palm leaves. Because of its tropical heritage, palm grass does not do well in frosty areas.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Close up of the stem of a palm grass leaf.
Palm grass stems are covered in small silicate hairs similar of other grasses. Leaves and stems can feel rough or dry as your hands run over the hairs.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Close up of palm grass flowers.
Palm grass can be controlled by digging out small clumps where you can be sure to have removed all rhizomes. Herbicide to control grasses can be applied with great success.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow