Fountain Grass - Illustration by George Maleski
Fountain Grass
Pennisetum setaceum


Description: Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) is an attractive perennial bunch grass with stems that can grow up to 3 feet high. Its small, pink or purple flowers are grouped in bristly, upright clusters ranging from 6 to 15 inches in length. The fruits are small, dry seeds adorned with long showy bristles.

Habitat: Although found in a wide elevation range, fountain grass is limited to areas with annual rainfall of less than 50 inches. In the southwestern United States, fountain grass invades grasslands, deserts, canyons and roadsides.

Total Range: P. setaceum is native to northern Africa. It has been introduced as an ornamental grass to many parts of the world including the United States (Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Florida, Louisiana, and Tennessee).1

Threat to Native Species and/or Environments: Fountain grass is a poor pasture species and considered to be a serious weed in many dry habitats. It is a highly aggressive, fire-adapted species that readily outcompetes native plants and reestablishes itself quickly after burning. Fountain grass alters the natural fire regimes in environments it invades by raising fuel loads, thus increasing the intensity and spread of fire. The increased fire activity can result in severe damage to native vegetation not accustomed to extreme burning.

Fountain grass in Pima County: Fountain grass has been introduced in Pima County as an ornamental grass along medians of roadways. From these roadways, it can spread out into the natural environment over great distances by wind, water, vehicles, livestock or humans. Its ability to spread quickly and change fire regimes makes it a potential threat to native species such as the velvet mesquite (Prosopis velutina) and the saguaro cactus (Carnegiea giganteus).



Native Plant Conservation Alliance, Alien Plant Working Group, March 2, 1999.


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