Spear Grass

Scientific Name
Heteropogon contortus (L.) Roem. & Schult.
Higher Classification
Andropogon contortus L., Andropogon hispidissimus Steud., Heteropogon hispidissimus A.Rich.
Common Names
Asgaaigras (a), Assegaaigras (a), Assegai Fix (e), Common Spear Grass (e), Gewone Pylgras (a), Isitupe (z), Klitsgras (a), Kusal Grass (e), Makurwane (tw), Malgras (a), Piercing Grass (e), Pieringgras (a), Pylgras (a), Selokana (ss), Spear Grass (e), Steekgras (a), Stick Grass (e), Swartangel (a), Swartangelgras (a), Tanglehead (e)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Least Concern
Assessment Date
L. von Staden
Heteropogon contortus is widespread, common and not in danger of extinction.
Not endemic to South Africa
Provincial distribution
Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West, Western Cape
This species is widespread across most of South Africa, but absent from the dry western areas. It is widespread across the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Andesite Mountain Bushveld, Winburg Grassy Shrubland, Central Free State Grassland, Bloemfontein Dry Grassland, Besemkaree Koppies Shrubland, Xhariep Karroid Grassland, Upper Karoo Hardeveld, Northern Upper Karoo, Eastern Upper Karoo, Aliwal North Dry Grassland, Carletonville Dolomite Grassland, Klerksdorp Thornveld, Marikana Thornveld, Gauteng Shale Mountain Bushveld, Mooi River Highland Grassland, Central Sandy Bushveld, Vaal-Vet Sandy Grassland, Springbokvlakte Thornveld, Western Sandy Bushveld, Waterberg Mountain Bushveld, Pondoland-Ugu Sandstone Coastal Sourveld, Karoo Escarpment Grassland, Sekhukhune Montane Grassland, Southern Karoo Riviere, Sekhukhune Plains Bushveld, Sekhukhune Mountain Bushveld, Highveld Alluvial Vegetation, Dwaalboom Thornveld, Drakensberg Foothill Moist Grassland, KaNgwane Montane Grassland, Paulpietersburg Moist Grassland, Wakkerstroom Montane Grassland, Amersfoort Highveld Clay Grassland, Eastern Highveld Grassland, Eastern Free State Clay Grassland, Steenkampsberg Montane Grassland, Rand Highveld Grassland, Eastern Free State Sandy Grassland, Basotho Montane Shrubland, Frankfort Highveld Grassland, Soweto Highveld Grassland, Bloemfontein Karroid Shrubland, Egoli Granite Grassland, Midlands Mistbelt Grassland, East Griqualand Grassland, Zastron Moist Grassland, Mthatha Moist Grassland, Tsomo Grassland, Queenstown Thornveld, Tarkastad Montane Shrubland, Western Free State Clay Grassland, Low Escarpment Moist Grassland, Northern KwaZulu-Natal Moist Grassland, KwaZulu-Natal Highland Thornveld, Income Sandy Grassland, Lesotho Highland Basalt Grassland, Tsakane Clay Grassland, Kimberley Thornveld, Upper Gariep Alluvial Vegetation, Granite Lowveld, Swaziland Sour Bushveld, Escarpment Arid Thicket, Amathole Montane Grassland, Kuruman Thornveld, Stormberg Plateau Grassland, Ghaap Plateau Vaalbosveld, Northern Zululand Sourveld, Vaalbos Rocky Shrubland, Schweizer-Reneke Bushveld, Stella Bushveld, Koranna-Langeberg Mountain Bushveld, Southern Drakensberg Highland Grassland, Kuruman Mountain Bushveld, Gold Reef Mountain Bushveld, Eastern Valley Bushveld, Schmidtsdrif Thornveld, Olifantshoek Plains Thornveld, Moot Plains Bushveld, Bhisho Thornveld, Thukela Thornveld, Phalaborwa-Timbavati Mopaneveld, Lowveld Rugged Mopaneveld, Kouga Grassy Sandstone Fynbos, Northern Drakensberg Highland Grassland, Limpopo Ridge Bushveld, Dry Coast Hinterland Grassland, Zululand Lowveld, South Eastern Coastal Thornveld, Moist Coast Hinterland Grassland, Tsitsikamma Sandstone Fynbos, Bedford Dry Grassland, Gabbro Grassy Bushveld, Musina Mopane Bushveld, Albany Valley Thicket, Kouga Sandstone Fynbos, Lower Gariep Broken Veld, Northern Free State Shrubland, Doubledrift Karroid Thicket, Southern KwaZulu-Natal Moist Grassland, Suurberg Quartzite Fynbos, Dwarsberg-Swartruggens Mountain Bushveld, Mafikeng Bushveld, Ohrigstad Mountain Bushveld, Gamka Karoo, Drakensberg-Amathole Afromontane Fynbos, Soutpansberg Mountain Bushveld, Makhado Sweet Bushveld, Madikwe Dolomite Bushveld, Western Highveld Sandy Grassland, Makatini Clay Thicket, Sundays Mesic Thicket, Grahamstown Grassland Thicket, Western Maputaland Clay Bushveld, Fish Valley Thicket, Polokwane Plateau Bushveld, Vredefort Dome Granite Grassland, Sundays Arid Thicket, Canca Limestone Fynbos, Grootrivier Quartzite Fynbos, South Outeniqua Sandstone Fynbos, Kango Conglomerate Fynbos, Algoa Sandstone Fynbos, South Langeberg Sandstone Fynbos, North Langeberg Sandstone Fynbos, North Swartberg Sandstone Fynbos, North Outeniqua Sandstone Fynbos, Overberg Sandstone Fynbos, South Swartberg Sandstone Fynbos, Kogelberg Sandstone Fynbos, South Kammanassie Sandstone Fynbos, Peninsula Sandstone Fynbos, Grass Ridge Bontveld, Albany Alluvial Vegetation, Lower Gariep Alluvial Vegetation, Cape Lowland Alluvial Vegetation, Hamburg Dune Thicket, Thorndale Forest Thicket, Sundays Valley Thicket, Oudshoorn Karroid Thicket, Nanaga Savanna Thicket, Mons Ruber Fynbos Thicket, Knysna Sand Fynbos, Hartenbos Strandveld, KwaZulu-Natal Coastal Belt Thornveld, Goukamma Dune Thicket, Fish Arid Thicket, Escarpment Valley Thicket, Escarpment Mesic Thicket, Elands Forest Thicket, Eastern Gwarrieveld, Crossroads Grassland Thicket, Buffels Valley Thicket, Buffels Mesic Thicket, Baviaans Valley Thicket, Kasouga Dune Thicket, Cape Flats Sand Fynbos, Garden Route Shale Fynbos, Montagu Shale Fynbos, Greyton Shale Fynbos, Cape Winelands Shale Fynbos, Peninsula Shale Fynbos, Suurberg Shale Fynbos, Garden Route Granite Fynbos, Peninsula Granite Fynbos, Boland Granite Fynbos, Elim Ferricrete Fynbos, Subtropical Alluvial Vegetation, Agulhas Sand Fynbos, KwaZulu-Natal Coastal Belt Grassland, Swartland Silcrete Renosterveld, Swellendam Silcrete Fynbos, Northern Escarpment Quartzite Sourveld, Eastern Coastal Shale Band Vegetation, Eastern Inland Shale Band Vegetation, Central Coastal Shale Band Vegetation, Central Inland Shale Band Vegetation, Swartland Alluvium Fynbos, Breede Alluvium Fynbos, Agulhas Limestone Fynbos, Albertinia Sand Fynbos, Pilanesberg Mountain Bushveld, Malelane Mountain Bushveld, Pretoriuskop Sour Bushveld, Makuleke Sandy Bushveld, Gordonia Duneveld, Kuruman Vaalbosveld, Postmasburg Thornveld, Kathu Bushveld, Western Little Karoo, Norite Koppies Bushveld, Northern Lebombo Bushveld, Zeerust Thornveld, Poung Dolomite Mountain Bushveld, Mamabolo Mountain Bushveld, Limpopo Sweet Bushveld, Roodeberg Bushveld, Loskop Thornveld, Lydenburg Thornveld, Molopo Bushveld, Gravelotte Rocky Bushveld, KwaZulu-Natal Sandstone Sourveld, KwaZulu-Natal Hinterland Thornveld, Thukela Valley Bushveld, Mopane Gabbro Shrubland, Tsende Mopaneveld, Mopane Basalt Shrubland, Cathedral Mopane Bushveld, Kaalrug Mountain Bushveld, Tzaneen Sour Bushveld, Barberton Serpentine Sourveld, Tshokwane-Hlane Basalt Lowveld, Delagoa Lowveld, Nwambyia-Pumbe Sandy Bushveld, Western Maputaland Sandy Bushveld, Tembe Sandy Bushveld, Lebombo Summit Sourveld, Southern Lebombo Bushveld, Prince Albert Succulent Karoo, Legogote Sour Bushveld, Uniondale Shale Renosterveld, uKhahlamba Basalt Grassland, Amathole Mistbelt Grassland, Groot Brak Dune Strandveld, Swartland Shale Renosterveld, Breede Shale Renosterveld, Montagu Shale Renosterveld, Matjiesfontein Shale Renosterveld, Loskop Mountain Bushveld, Langkloof Shale Renosterveld, Albany Mesic Thicket, Mossel Bay Shale Renosterveld, Eastern Ruens Shale Renosterveld, Central Ruens Shale Renosterveld, Western Ruens Shale Renosterveld, Peninsula Shale Renosterveld, Kango Limestone Renosterveld, Swartland Granite Renosterveld, Humansdorp Shale Renosterveld, Northern Zululand Mistbelt Grassland, Eastern Little Karoo, Little Karoo Quartz Vygieveld, Western Upper Karoo, Eastern Lower Karoo, Bushmanland Basin Shrubland, Kalahari Karroid Shrubland, Bushmanland Arid Grassland, Barberton Montane Grassland, Mabela Sandy Grassland, Senqu Montane Shrubland, Long Tom Pass Montane Grassland, Waterberg-Magaliesberg Summit Sourveld, Soutpansberg Summit Sourveld, Strydpoort Summit Sourveld, Wolkberg Dolomite Grassland, Woodbush Granite Grassland, Northern Escarpment Dolomite Grassland, Ruens Silcrete Renosterveld, Ithala Quartzite Sourveld
It occurs on well-drained soils on flats, hillsides and rocky places.

It is a widespread and very common species. It is a hardy grass that is able to grow in poor soils (Fish et al. 2015). It is also resilient to disturbance.

Population trend
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Heteropogon contortus (L.) Roem. & Schult.Least Concern Raimondo et al. (2009)

Cope, T. 1999. Gramineae. In: G.V. Pope (ed). Flora Zambesiaca 10 (Part 2):1-253. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Fish, L., Mashau, A.C., Moeaha, M.J. and Nembudani, M.T. 2015. Identification guide to southern African grasses. Strelitzia 36. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Goldblatt, P. and Manning, J.C. 2000. Cape Plants: A conspectus of the Cape Flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town.

Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African Plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Vlok, J. and Schutte-Vlok, A.L. 2010. Plants of the Klein Karoo. Umdaus Press, Hatfield.

von Staden, L. 2020. Heteropogon contortus (L.) Roem. & Schult. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2020.1. Accessed on 2024/02/24

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Distribution map

© J.H. Vlok/A.L. Schutte-Vlok

© J.H. Vlok/A.L. Schutte-Vlok

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