Fountain Grass

Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum)


Poses a major fire threat to many of Hawaii’s natural and developed areas and has been designated a noxious weed by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. The Division of Forestry and Wildlife of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources has designated fountain grass as one of Hawaii’s most invasive horticultural plants.


  • Medium-sized grass, grows to 1 meter (3 ft)
  • Grows in clumps, with long, purple to yellow “spikes” that are the flower/seeds
  • Leaves do not form flat “blades” like most leaves; they are long and round like wire
  • Native to Africa introduced to Hawaii as an ornamental.


  • Grows quickly and outcompetes other plants for resources like water and space
  • Poor pasture grass, degrades the quality of pasturelands, particularly in drier areas
  • Fire-adapted, it can survive brush fires, where native plants cannot.
  • Fire-promoting. Dry fountain grass is an excellent fuel for brush fires.
  • Changes structure of dry forest (from bushes, trees to grass savannah)

In Hawaii:

  • Kauai: Fountain grass is known to one location, in sub-optimal habitat above Hanapepe. KISC is working with HDOA to control or eradicate it from Kauai.
  • Oahu: Populations occur in Lanikai and Diamond Head, and should be controlled by property owners wherever possible. OISC is working to prevent fountain grass from becoming established in the Waianae Range by monitoring areas where fountain grass had been introduced in the past, and removing it from high traffic areas (trails, roads etc.).
  • Maui: Known fountain grass populations are limited to areas in Waiehu and Kahului, and MISC is working to control or eradicate it.
  • Molokai: Found in the 1990s and eradicated by HDOA. MoMISC continues to monitor the area for regrowth, survey likely habitat and educate residents to report this grass.
  • Lanai: Small population present. MISC controls current populations.
  • Kahoolawe: One population known from Lua Kealialalo. Discovered in 1996. All the known individuals have been controlled. A persistent seed bank regularly sprouts seedlings that are occasionally controlled by KIRC staff and volunteers.
  • Big Island: Site of the original plantings, the infestation on the Kona side of the Big Island encompasses over 200,000 acres. Property owners should control it where possible, as it is too widespread for island-wide control by BIISC. It is also recommended that communities maintain “fuel-breaks,” wide areas free of fountain grass, particularly in dry months. BIISC did a control project in the Ranchos subdivision, below the Kahaku addition to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and the National Park Service controlled fountain grass in Ocean View Estates to prevent spread to the Park.

For more information, see: