A native of Africa, fountain grass was introduced for ornamental purposes. It is unknown exactly what year fountain grass arrived in Hawai’i, we do know it had escaped cultivation by 1914. Now it’s well established on all main Hawaiian Islands. It poses a major fire threat to many of Hawaiʻi’s natural and developed areas.
Fountain grass is an aggressive invader forming monotypic stands in dry parts of the state. It disrupts the slow and natural process of lava fields changing into native forest. The hillsides of Kona were once clothed in an abundance of dry forest diversity, especially prominent were the yellowed flowers of the halapepe. Today, a generation later, only fountain grass remains. Pennisetum setaceum is on the Hawaiʻi State Noxious Weed List. The Division of Forestry and Wildlife of the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources has designated this species as one of Hawaiʻi’s Most Invasive Horticultural Plants.
Description and Dispersal:
- Medium-sized clumping grass, grows up to 3 ft tall
- Leaves are long and round like wire, they do not form flat 'blades'
- The flower seedheads are long, purple to yellow 'spikes' (4 - 9.5 in)
- Seeds spread by the wind