Heteropogon contortus is a tropical, perennial tussock grass with a native distribution encompassing Southern Africa, southern Asia, Northern Australia and Oceania. The species has also become a naturalised weed in tropical and subtropical regions in the Americas and East Asia. The plant grows to 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) in height and is favoured in most environments by frequent burning. The plants develop characteristic dark seeds with a single long awn at one end and a sharp spike at the other. The awn becomes twisted when dry and straightens when moistened, and in combination with the spike is capable of drilling the seed into the soil.
The species is known by many common names, including black speargrass, tanglehead, steekgras (in Afrikaans) and pili (in Hawaiian).
Length up to 1 m. Spear Grass is a perennial and quite a fast-growing grass. Utilization is by most grazers. Inflorescence a single green raceme (often hairy) with long, brown, velvety, intertwined awns. Leaf sheaths are compressed and awns curl when dry and tend to cluster together.