Native to: North Africa and Middle East
This popular ornamental plant has been widely planted in warm areas across the globe. Although not yet a widespread problem in Florida its behavior in South Florida has earned it a category II ranking from the Florida Invasive Species Council. It is highly problematic in other parts of the US and is state listed as a noxious weed in Hawaii and Nevada. It is also invasive in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and southern parts of Europe.
Taxonomic confusion: Recent research indicates that Pennisetum, Cenchrus, and Odontelytrum form a single group, and Pennisetum and Odontelytrum should be transferred into Cenchrus. Consequently, the accepted name is now Cenchrus setaceus however its use is inconsistent across online resources.
Habit: Perennial, mound forming, grass to 1.3 m tall. Tufted, erect stems.
Leaves: narrowly linear, flat or inrolled, to 0.6 m long and 6 mm wide, upper surface rough, ligule of dense silky hairs.
Flowers: dense, terminal panicle, cylindrical, nodding to 35 cm long. Spikelets in clusters of 1-3 with plumose bristles towards the base, usually 4-5 times longer than the spikelets.
Distribution in Florida: established in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties and scattered reports from Central Florida and the panhandle
Where invasive, Fountain grass displaces native and endangered plants, increases fire frequency and intensity, can alter nutrient cycling, and reduces moisture availability to surrounding flora. In pasture settings it is unpalatable to cattle.
Thoroughly clean any equipment, gear, and clothing after working or recreating in infested areas.
Seedlings are easily pulled out by hand and larger plants can be dug out using a pick or shovel. It is important to bag or otherwise destroy the seed heads to prevent further seed dispersal. Skin irritation from the leaves and seed heads has been documented so gloves should be worn.
Herbicide and other management recommendations for this species from Weed Control in Natural Areas in the Western United States can be found here. Consult your local UF IFAS Extension for further assistance with management recommendations.