North Africa Grass

Identification & Biology
Alias' : Wiregrass, Softbearded Oat Grass, Ventenata
Latin Name : Ventenata dubia
Category : Terrestrial Plants
Description :
  • Winter annual grass that grows from 10 to 45 cm tall 
  • Stems are long, thin, branching and wiry 
  • Leaves occur mostly on the lower half of the stems and are narrow, smooth-edged blades 
  • Reddish-black nodes appear on the stem between May and June 
  • Flower head is an open cluster appearing light green but turning yellow-brown after opening 
  • Distinctive twisted and bent awns on the upper seedheads of mature plants 


North Africa grass reproduces only by seed.  Each flower head produces one seed with an average production of 15 to 35 per plant. Flowers appear from June to August. Seeds persist in the soil for 2-3 years. Long seed awns allow for attachment to fur and objects. Seeds are dispersed by livestock, farm equipment, vehicles and contaminated hay and grass seed mixtures.  

North Africa grass can be misidentified as invasive cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), native timber oatgrass (Danthonia intermediaand non-invasive non-native spike oat grass (Avenula hookeri). It is distinguished by its bent bristles, 2-3 blooms per spikelet and straw coloured inner blooms. 

Look Alikes

Native to North Africa, south-central Europe, south Russia and west Asia, North Africa grass typically grows in clay and clay-loam soils that are shallow and rocky. It invades perennial grasslands, rangelands, hayfields, roadsides, railways, riparian corridors and other disturbed sites. It can invade disturbed bunchgrass and shrub-steppe communities. It is most common below 1,800 m elevation. In British Columbia, North Africa grass is a regulated provincial noxious weed. Management goal is to contain to impacted regions. BC confirmed sites include Kootenay-Boundary and Central Kootenays. Containment is in progress at both locations. 

Impact & Risks
  • North Africa grass infestation in hayfields can decrease yield by up to 50% as the grass is not palatable to livestock and cannot be sold
  • It readily outcompetes most perennial grass species and leads to a drop in biodiversity when it colonizes an area
  • Patches of North Africa grass can increase soil erosion
Prevention & Mitigation

The most effective way to ensure that your lands do not become infested with North Africa grass is by prevention. Here are some recommendations to prevent invasion: 

  • Purchase and plant certified, clean seed mixtures; be cautious of imported grass seed mixtures and check seed labels
  • Clean clothing and pets after walking through an infested area
  • Clean vehicles and machinery of plant material and soil before leaving an infested site
  • Maintain your crops and natural lands in a healthy, vigorous condition to ensure a competitive plant community; competitive perennial grasses, forbs and shrubs use water and nutrients that would otherwise be readily available to North Africa grass
  • Regularly patrol your property for North Africa grass and immediately control or remove infestations before seed set
  • Cooperate with adjacent landowners and encourage them to prevent the spread of North Africa grass
  • Immediately re-vegetate disturbed, bare soils with a suitable seed mixture that provides dense, early colonization to prevent invasion of unwanted plants
  • REPORT new sightings immediately
  • SCREEN seed mixtures to ensure invasive plant free: 
Treatment & Disposal
  • Hand-pulling can be effective for small patches as they grow from shallow roots
  • Be sure to bag all plants, plant parts and seeds  
  • Mowing can be effective if done prior to seed set and before soils dry out. 
  • Chemical control is also an option; before applying herbicide, read the label thoroughly to understand how to use safely and effectively
  • For further information on the selection and application of chemicals to protect your crop, contact Agri Service BC at 1-888-221-7141 or email



Adapted from: 

Okanagan Distribution

Priority Level Definitions

Watch For - Poses a significant threat (very high risk) and does NOT presently occur in the region OR is relatively new to the region and is very limited in extent.
High - High risk/impact; limited population with significant potential to spread in the region.
Medium - Medium risk/impact; limited distribution – broader population distribution with potential to spread further in a region.
Low - Low risk/impact; may be widespread or not, may be of concern in specific situations with certain high values – e.g. specific agriculture crops. Some species may be treated primarily with biological control agents.