Field experiments were carried out at seven sites in southern Australia from 2002 to 2006 to measure changes in plant frequency, root characteristics and summer activity for a range of grass and herb species or cultivars. Annual rainfall during the experimental period was on average 75 mm lower than the long-term average. Plant frequency differed significantly between species and between sites. Temperate grasses generally had higher frequencies than subtropical grasses, native grasses and herbs. Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata cvv. Currie, Porto), tall wheat grass (Thinopyrum ponticum cv. Dundas), winter-active tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea cvv. Fraydo, Resolute MaxP) and phalaris (Phalaris aquatica cvv. Atlas PG, Australian) were the most persistent of the temperate perennial species over the experimental period. The frequency of most cultivars declined from year 2 to year 4 after establishment, but the frequency of kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum cv.Whittet) and wallaby grass (Austrodanthonia richardsonii cv. Taranna) increased by over 5% from year 2 to year 3, and cocksfoot (cv. Currie) increased from year 3 to year 4. At two sites where measurements were made, there were significant differences in rooting depth between species. Whittet kikuyu was the deepest among all species with a rooting depth of up to 2 m, followed by phalaris, tall fescue, grazing brome (Bromus stamineus) and tall wheat grass. Root density was affected by plant genotype and soil structure. Root density of the species varied significantly in the subsoil (0.1'1.1 m) and deeper subsoil (1.1'2 m) but not in the topsoil (0'0.1 m). Green-leafiness over summer was generally higher for subtropical grasses, native grasses, herbs and some summer-active temperate grasses, than most temperate grasses with high summer dormancy.