Pennisetum setaceum | Crimson fountaingrass

Pre 2017

2017 - 2020


Legal status

Regulated invasive species of Union concern under the European Regulation on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species [1143/2014].


Not assessed

Irish status


Introduction pathways - 1

Escape from Confinement

Introduction pathways subclass - 1

Ornamental purpose

Introduction pathways - 2

Release in Nature

Introduction pathways subclass - 2

Erosion control

NAPRA Ireland risk assessed


Species Biology


Long-lived perennial grass growing up to 1.3m high (EPPO, 2012). Small pink, tan or purple flowers carried on long bristles from 8-30cm long (EPPO, 2012). Leaves may change colour in relation to water availability and go from green in winter to brown in summer (EPPO, 2012). Fruits are achenes with long bristles.


Very successful in dry conditions but cannot compete with native grasses in wetter environments (EPPO, 2012). Requires annual rainfall <127cm (EPPO, 2012; Kaufman, 2012). Likes full sun but can be found in partial shade (EPPO, 2012). Tolerates any soil type as long as it is free-draining (Kaufman, 2012). Enters an inactive state during drought and freezing or near freezing conditions (EPPO, 2012; GISD, 2015). Forms dense monospecific stands crowding out native plants and competing for valuable resources (EPPO, 2012). Increases the risk and intensity of fire due to its high inflammability in winter. Fires can be detrimental to the habitats of animals and ground nesting birds (Benton, 2009).


Reproduces by seed, which is dispersed by wind and anthropogenic means (Benton, 2009). Produces seed in the first year (EPPO, 2012). Seed production is low (approximately 100 seeds per plant) but is produced several times a year (EPPO, 2012). Mainly self pollinating (EPPO, 2012).

Pathway and vector description

Introduced as an ornamental and from there spreads by seed to the wild. It is readily available for purchase online. Has also been introduced for soil stabilization (EPPO, 2012). Vectors are wind, water, the fur of animals and vehicles spreading seed along roadways and railways (Benton, 2009).

Mechanism of impact


Management approach

There is currently an EU wide ban on the sale, growing and keeping of this plant (European Commission, 2017).

Control is extremely difficult due to the lifespan of the seedbank (Benton, 2009; EPPO, 2012).


Small colonies can be pulled out by hand or dug up prior to seed set. This may be necessary several times a year (Benton, 2009). Native grass species should be planted post control (EPPO, 2012; GISD, 2015).


Larger infestations can be controlled by spraying with herbicides such as fluazifop, quizalofop and glyphosate.

Broad environment


Habitat description

A pioneer of disturbed areas. Found in deserts, road and railsides, wasteland, grasslands and pastures (EPPO, 2012).

Species group


Native region

Temperate Asia, Tropical Asia, Africa

Similar species

Pennisetum advena (previously Pennisetum setaceum var. rubrum). This species is usually sterile and has wider leaves and a bushier infloresence (Kaufman, 2012).


World distribution(GBIF)

Introduced to France, Italy, Spain, USA, the Carribean and Oceania.

Native distribution

Native to North Africa and Asia

Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2022

The following map is interactive. If you would prefer to view it full screen then click here.

How can you help

Report any sightings to the National Biodiversity Data Centre. Do not purchase or plant in your garden. Dispose of any garden plants or weeds responsibly.



Benton N, 2009. Fountain grass: Pennisetum setaceum (Forsk.) Chiov. Viginia, USA: The Nature Conservancy. Site accessed 22 September 2017.

European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organisation (EPPO) (2012) Mini Datasheet on Pennisetum setaceum (Poaceae). EPPO, Paris. Site accessed 21 September 2017.

European Commission. (2017). Invasive Alien Species of Union Concern. European Union, Luxembourg.

Global Invasive Species Database (GISD) (2015). Species profile Cenchrus setaceus. Available from: Site accessed 21 September 2017.

Kaufman, S (2012) Invasive Species Compendium. Datasheet report for Pennisetum setaceum (Fountain grass). CABI. Site accessed 21 September 2017.

CABI Datasheet

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Additional comments

Also referred to as Cenchrus setaceus.