Invasion of grass weeds is a major threat for ecosystems. Mission grass (Cenchrus pedicellatus and C. polystachios) vigorously competes with native vegetation and has become a serious problem in northern Australian savanna. A lower density of mission grass has been observed under the canopy of stands of native Acacia holosericea. We used a series of laboratory and shade house experiments to assess the potential for allelopathy and the role of litter on germination, emergence and seedling growth of these two species of mission grass. Different concentrations of aqueous leaf extract of A. holosericea were used to assess allelopathic effects on germination. Various depths and types of litter were used to investigate the allelopathic and physical effects of litter on emergence and growth of mission grass seedlings in the shade house. Results indicate that extracts did not affect germination of either species of mission grass but root growth of seedlings was affected. Emergence of seedlings in the shade house was affected by physical litter treatments but not by allelopathy. After emergence no negative effects on seedling growth were detected. Overall we found that there was no allelopathic effect on germination and that the negative effect on emergence was due to the physical properties of the litter. This effect on emergence increased with increasing depth of litter. Allelopathy slightly inhibited root growth but once seedlings emerged, litter tended to facilitate growth. This has implications for the ecological management of mission grass on disturbed lands, using strategies such as manipulation of litter cover through Acacia establishment. � CSIRO 2014.