Pennisetum setaceum, commonly known as fountain grass, purple fountain grass or in Afrikaans pronkgras (flaunt grass or prance grass), is a perennial, tufted grass growing to 1 m in height when flowering. Leaf blades are fairly narrow, tapering to acute tips, the ligule at the tip of the sheath hairy.
The inflorescence is unbranched, a raceme of about 25 cm long, purplish when young, aging to beige. The spikelets become 2,5 mm long, surrounded by brushes of bristly hairs 2 cm long.
This is an exotic from tropical Africa established in parts widespread across most provinces of South Africa. Another well-known tropical exotic from this genus is P. clandestinum or kikuyu grass, unlikely to be removed from South Africa ever.
The habitat is diverse, including fynbos, savanna and parts of the Karoo, often on disturbed land, even on steep, rocky dry slopes.
It is unpalatable to grazers, the leaves hard and coarse but gardeners favour it.
About seven species of Pennisetum are indigenous in South Africa, none of them threatened in their habitat early in the twenty first century (Van Oudtshoorn, et al, 1991; Van Wyk and Malan, 1997; Lowrey and Wright, 1987; iSpot; http://redlist.sanbi.org).