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Nassella tussock is a perennial tussock-forming grass with fine-bladed, wiry leaves. It grows up to one metre high and one metre across. The extremely tough, thin, round blades that do not break when pulled. They are rough to the touch and are light green. The drooping seed heads have a purplish tinge.
Nassella tussock establishes in open sites in pasture, disturbed shrubland, tall and short tussockland, bare land, river systems, and rocky and coastal areas. In New Zealand it occurs most frequently in drought-prone grasslands, particularly in South Canterbury and Otago.
Nassella tussock is tolerant to drought, fire and grazing but does not tolerate shade, salinity or water-logging. It can form pure stands in low-growing plant communities such as pasture, preventing other species from establishing.
Nassella tussock reproduces by seed and each mature plant can produce more than 100,000 seeds per year.