Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Leptochloa nealleyi
(Nealley's sprangletop)



Leptochloa nealleyi (Nealley's sprangletop)


  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Leptochloa nealleyi
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Nealley's sprangletop
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • L. nealleyi is a grass weed which has been described as an invasive species in Cuba by Oviedo Prieto et al. (2012). However, in the Manual of Grasses of North America (...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Leptochloa nealleyi Vasey

Preferred Common Name

  • Nealley's sprangletop

Other Scientific Names

  • Dinebra nealleyi (Vasey) P.M.Peterson & N.Snow
  • Leptochloa stricta E. Fourn.

Summary of Invasiveness

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L. nealleyi is a grass weed which has been described as an invasive species in Cuba by Oviedo Prieto et al. (2012). However, in the Manual of Grasses of North America (Barkworth et al., 2007) it is regarded as a rare species in Cuba. Although not mentioned as an invasive species, Bergeron et al. (2015), report that L. nealleyi has expanded its habitat by becoming a worrisome weed in rice production in Louisiana and Texas, USA.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Cyperales
  •                         Family: Poaceae
  •                             Genus: Leptochloa
  •                                 Species: Leptochloa nealleyi

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Leptochloa is a genus in the family Poaceae, including 36 accepted species (The Plant List, 2013). Sprangletop is the most widely used common name for many species in this genus. Leptochloa nealleyi was originally described from Texas in 1885, having been first collected in this state by G. C. Nealley. L. stricta, described from Veracruz, Mexico, is the only listed synonym of L. nealleyi in The Plant List (2013).

Peterson et al. (2012) proposed separating Leptochloa into five genera, placing L. nealleyi within the genus Dinebra as Dinebra nealleyi (Vasey) P.M.Peterson & N.Snow, comb. nov. This name is now accepted by some authorities, including the Catalogue of New World Grasses at Tropicos (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016).


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The following description is from Barkworth et al. (2007).

Plants annual. Culms (30)60-250 cm, mostly erect, compressed, sometimes branching from the lower nodes; internodes hollow. Sheaths glabrous, smooth or minutely scabrous; ligules 1.5-3 mm, membranous, truncate, erose, sometimes appearing ciliate because of the hairs at the base of the blades; blades 10-75 cm long, 4-7 mm wide, sometimes with stiff hairs behind the ligules, both surfaces scabridulous elsewhere. Panicles 30-76 cm, with 25-75 racemose branches; branches mostly 1-5(9) cm, steeply ascending to erect, stiff, lower branches sometimes included in the upper leaf sheaths. Spikelets 2.8-3.4 mm, imbricate, with 3-4 florets. Glumes lanceolate, lower glumes 0.7-0.8 mm, acute to narrowly obtuse; upper glumes 0.9-1.3 mm, obtuse; lemmas 1-2 mm, broadly lanceolate, membranous, veins sericeous basally, apices obtuse to acute or apiculate; paleas sericeous along the veins; anthers 3, 0.2-0.4 mm. Caryopses 0.5-1 mm long, 0.4-0.5 mm wide, elliptic to obovate, nearly round in cross section.

Plant Type

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Grass / sedge
Seed propagated


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L. nealleyi is considered a native species in Mexico (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016) and the southwestern USA (Bergeron et al., 2015). It is listed as present in Texas and Lousiana by USDA-NRCS (2016). It has been reported as non-native from Florida, where it is present in some southern counties (Wunderlin and Hansen, 2016), although Barkworth et al. (2007) reported it as native to coastal Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Mexico.

In Puerto Rico it is considered an introduced species (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012). In Cuba is considered an exotic and invasive species (Oviedo Prieto, et al, 2012). According to records at the Intermountain Herbarium, Utah State University, the species is not established in Arizona but was collected once from a farm in the Wellton area. It is not clear whether the plants were being cultivated or were weeds (SEINet, 2018).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

North America

MexicoPresentNativeValdés Reyna et al., 1997; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016Tamaulipas; Veracruz; Yucatan; Sanaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, Noreste de México
USARestricted distributionNativeUSDA-NRCS, 2016Southern states
-ArizonaAbsent, formerly presentSEINet, 2018
-FloridaPresentNativeBarkworth et al., 2007; Wunderlin and Hansen, 2016
-LouisianaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-TexasPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016

Central America and Caribbean

CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Barkworth et al., 2007; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012; Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, 2016
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; USDA-NRCS, 2016

History of Introduction and Spread

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Oviedo Prieto et al. (2012) considered the species introduced and invasive in Cuba, but with the proviso that the literature does not give details on history of introduction. Barkworth et al. (2007) list it as only rarely growing in Cuba.

Although L. nealleyi is considered a native species in the southern USA, Bergeron et al. (2015) understand that the widespread adoption of the Clearfield rice technology in the mid-south may be a reason for the expansion of Nealley’s sprangletop as a weed in rice crops. Wilder and McCombs (2006) reported the species as a new record in Florida, although Barkworth et al. (2007) list it as native here.

Risk of Introduction

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According to distribution data found in the literature, the risk of introduction seems to be small.  


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L. nealleyi grows in wet woodland habitat in Texas, Mexico, and Cuba. Also in marshes and ditches mostly near the coast of Louisiana, Texas and eastern Mexico (Hitchcock, 1936). In Sanabel Island, Florida, where it is considered rare, it is found in disturbed land (Barkworth et al., 2007).

L. nealleyi has been seen along the coast, often in saline sites, and wet soils in marshes, swales and rivers (Reed, 1988; Shaw, 2012).  Occasional in waste ground close to still water and in ponds dominated with Eleocharis quadrangulata (University of Texas Herbarium, 2016). Also found in Pine Woods, Gulf Coast Prairie and Marshes, Post Oak Savanna, Cross Timber, and South Texas Plains (Shaw et al., 2011).

Habitat List

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Inland saline areas Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
Riverbanks Present, no further details Natural
Wetlands Principal habitat Natural
Coastal areas Present, no further details Natural
Mud flats Present, no further details Natural
Salt marshes Present, no further details Natural
Rivers / streams Present, no further details Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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Even though L. nealleyi is commonly found along ditches and roadsides in Lousiana and Texas; according to Smith (1983) and Bergeron et al. (2015), L. nealleyi has expanded its habitat by becoming a worrisome weed in rice production in both states (Louisiana and Texas). The plant has also been reported in fields near the Louisiana and Arkansas border.

Although this weed is classified as an annual it often survives the mild winters in south Louisiana and Texas. The weed has a perennial growth habit in these environments, and this characteristic makes it more difficult to control (Bergeron, 2017). It is believed that the widespread adoption of the Clearfield rice technology in the mid-south caused the proliferation of L. nealleyi as a weed in rice (Bergeron et al., 2015).

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
Oryza sativa (rice)PoaceaeMain

Biology and Ecology

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2n = 40 (Barkworth et al., 2007).

Reproductive Biology

L. nealleyi is a prolific seed producer with high seed viability at maturity (Bergeron et al., 2014).

Bergeron et al. (2015) describe the species as a summer annual clump grass, fast growing following a short lag time after emergence, with an estimated growth of 2.5 cm/day. Although this weed is classified as an annual it often survives the mild winters in south Louisiana and Texas, indicating a potential perennial growth habit (Bergeron, 2017).

Physiology and Phenology

Flowering time- from mid April to beginning of July (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016).


University of Texas Herbarium (2016) provides an extensive list of plants species associated with L. nealleyi.

Environmental Requirements

Mostly wet and moist areas. Can adapt to flooded conditions, which makes it a problem in rice growing regions.


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Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 11 30


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall3802500mm; lower/upper limits

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil texture

  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • saline
  • shallow

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Mocis repanda Herbivore Whole plant not specific

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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L. nealleyi is a prolific seed producer with high seed viability at maturity (Bergeron et al., 2015). Seeds are possibly dispersed by running water (rivers, ditches, etc.).

Impact Summary

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Economic/livelihood Negative

Economic Impact

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L. nealleyi is a weed of rice production in the southern USA, having recently adapted to flooded environments similar to those of rice fields (Bergeron, 2017). It has become a widespread weed problem in the rice growing regions of Louisiana and Texas. A thesis by Bergeron (2017) found that removal of L. nealleyi at 7 DAE increased rough rice yield 1910 kg/ha compared with rice from the nontreated crop. Delaying removal of the weed until 42 days after the weed emerges can result in a profit loss at $460/ha.

In addition to maize, sugarcane and Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), the larvae of Remigia punctularis Hb. (Mocis repanda, auct.), a serious pest of crops in tropical America and occasionally injurious in southern Texas (Vickery, 1924) also feed on L. nealleyi.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
Impact outcomes
  • Negatively impacts agriculture


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The plant is one of a number of species listed as providing food for ducks, coots, and moorhens at the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, Texas (Hathcock, 2007).

Uses List

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  • Wildlife habitat

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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The numerous, short, stiffly ascending or erect panicle branches make Leptochloa nealleyi easy to identify (Barkworth et al., 2007). L. nealleyi is similar to L.scabra, but L. nealleyi has glumes which are rounded at the apex, while in L. scabra, they are acuminate or slightly awned. It also has a close resemblance to vaseygrass, Paspalum urvillei (Bergeron, 2017). At the seedling stage, L. nealleyi can be identified by sparse pubescence at the base of the stem unlike other Leptochloa species commonly found in rice fields (Bergeron, 2017).

Prevention and Control

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L. nealleyi often survives the winter in south Louisiana and Texas, making it an early season problem in rice crops. Its importance as a weed also seems to have increased after the widespread adoption in this part of the USA of imidazolinone-resistant rice. Research in Louisiana shows this group of herbicides causes a reduction in L. nealleyi height, but surviving plants produce excessive tillering and this results in a more difficult grass to control (Webster et al., 2016).

Cultural Control and Sanitary Measures

Care should be taken to clean equipment before leaving an infested field (Bergeron et al., 2014).

Chemical Control

Bergeron et al. (2015) suggest that the herbicides imazethapyr and imazamox, labelled for use in imidazolinone-resistant rice, at best suppress L. nealleyi. Quinclorac, penoxsulam, and bispyribac provided little to no control when applied to this weed (Bergeron, 2017). For infestations in rice, a spring burndown application prior to planting may be necessary for proper management of this weed, with glyphosate giving the greatest control. For control in the growing crop, fenoxaprop has been found to give the best results (Bergeron, 2017). Clethodim and quizalofop applications resulted in 89 and 99% control of L. nealleyi, respectively, but are not currently labelled for use in rice in the USA.

Integrated Control

Bergeron (2017) suggests an overall strategy for L. nealleyi management in rice in the USA, including tillage, burndown herbicide applications in spring, and in-crop herbicide application.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Data on L. nealleyi is very limited. No data is available on why it is considered an invasive species in Cuba (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012), or on potential environmental impact.


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Acevedo-Rodríguez P, Strong MT, 2012. Catalogue of the Seed Plants of the West Indies. Smithsonian Contributions to Botany, 98:1192 pp. Washington DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution.

Barkworth ME, Capels KM, Long S, Anderton LK, Piep MB, 2007. Grass manual on the Web. Flora of North America, Vol. 24. Logan, Utah, USA: Utah State University.

Beetle A, 1987. Noteworthy grasses from Mexico XIII, Phytologia, 63(4):209-297

Bergeron EA, 2017. Nealley’s sprangletop (Leptochloa nealleyi Vasey) management and interference in rice production. MSc thesis, Louisiana State University

Bergeron EA, Webster EP, McKnight BM, Fish JC, 2014. Control of Nealley’s Sprangletop (Leptochloa nealleyi). Baton Rouge, LA, USA: LSU AgCenter.

Bergeron EA, Webster EP, McKnight BN, Rustom SY Jr., 2015. Evaluation of Herbicides for Nealley’s Sprangletop (Leptochloa nealleyi) control. In: IX Congresso Brasileiro de arroz irrigado, Pelotas, RS, Brazil, 11-14 August 2015.

Hathcock C, 2007. Flora of Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and World Birding Center, Part II: Description of Vegetation and Management Implications., The Sabal, 24(7):1-5

Hitchcock AS, 1936. Manual of the grasses of the United States. Washington DC., USA: United States Government Printing Office.

Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016. Tropicos database. St. Louis, Missouri, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden.

Oviedo Prieto R, Herrera Oliver P, Caluff MG, et al, 2012. National list of invasive and potentially invasive plants in the Republic of Cuba - 2011. (Lista nacional de especies de plantas invasoras y potencialmente invasoras en la República de Cuba - 2011). Bissea: Boletín sobre Conservación de Plantas del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba, 6(Special Issue 1):22-96.

Peterson, P. M., Romaschenko, K., Snow, N., Johnson, G., 2012. A molecular phylogeny and classification of Leptochloa (Poaceae: Chloridoideae: Chlorideae) sensu lato and related genera., Annals of Botany, 109(7):1317-1329

Reed PB, 1988. National List of Plants that occur in wetlands, 1988 National Summary. Biological Report 88 (24). Fish and Wildlife Service. U.S. Dept. of the Interior

SEINet, 2018. SEINet, Arizona-New Mexico Chapter: Dinebra nealleyi.

Shaw RB, 2012. Guide to Texas Grasses. USA: Texas A&M University Press.

Shaw RB, Rector BS, Dube AM, 2011. Distribution of Grasses in Texas, BRIT Press. 196 pp..

Smith, R. J., Jr., 1983. Competition of bearded sprangletop (Leptochloa fascicularis) with rice (Oryza sativa)., Weed Science, 31(1):120-123

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, 2016. Smithsonian Museum of Natural History Botany Collections. Washington, DC, USA: Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

The Plant List, 2013. The Plant List: a working list of all plant species. Version 1.1. London, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

University of Texas Herbarium, 2016. The Lundell Plant Diversity Portal. Austin, Texas: University of Texas at Austin.

USDA-NRCS, 2016. The PLANTS Database. Baton Rouge, USA: National Plant Data Center.

Valdés Reyna J, Dávila Aranda P, 1998. Base de datos de las gramíneas (Poaceae) del noreste de México. Universidad Autónoma Agraria Antonio Narro. Informe final SNIB-CONABIO proyecto No. G029. México, D.F.

Vickery RA, 1924. The Striped Grass Looper, Mocis repanda, in Texas, Journal of Economic Entomology, 17(3):401-406

Webster EP, McKnight BM, Bergeron EA, Rustom SY, 2016. Rice Weed Science 2015 Annual Research Report. Baton Rouge, LA, USA: Louisiana State University Agricultural Center Pub. C15-25. Propanil with newpath for Nealley's sprangletop control. Pp238-244.

Wilder GJ, McCombs MR, 2006. New and significant record of vascular plants for Florida and for Collier County and Lee County, Florida., SIDA, Contributions to Botany, 22(1):787-799

Wunderlin RP, Hansen BF, 2016. Atlas of Florida vascular plants. Tampa, Florida, USA: Institute for Systematic Botany, University of South Florida.


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08/08/2016 Original text by:

Jose Chabert-Llompart, El Pastillo ConservationTrust, Inc., Puerto Rico

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