Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Trachypogon spicatus
(spiked crinkleawn)



Trachypogon spicatus (spiked crinkleawn)


  • Last modified
  • 03 January 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Trachypogon spicatus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • spiked crinkleawn
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Trachypogon spicatus is a perennial grass with a large native distribution range extending from North America to South America, and across tropical and subtropical Africa. This species is weedy within its nativ...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Trachypogon spicatus (L.f.) Kuntze

Preferred Common Name

  • spiked crinkleawn

Other Scientific Names

  • Andropogon canescens (Nees) Kunth
  • Andropogon dactyloides Steud.
  • Andropogon dissolutus (Nees) Steud.
  • Andropogon laxiflorus Steud.
  • Andropogon ligularis (Nees) Kunth
  • Andropogon megapotamicus Spreng.
  • Andropogon mollis (Nees) Kunth
  • Andropogon montufarii Kunth
  • Andropogon plumosus Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.
  • Andropogon spicatus (L.f.) Steud.
  • Andropogon stenophyllus Roem. & Schult.
  • Andropogon trichospirus Hack.
  • Andropogon truncatus (Nees) Steud.
  • Andropogon vestitus Steud.
  • Heteropogon megapotamicus (Spreng.) Schult. & Schult.f.
  • Heteropogon secundus J. Presl
  • Heteropogon stipoides J. Presl
  • Heteropogon truncatus Nees
  • Sorghum vestitum (Steud.) Kuntze
  • Trachypogon angustifolius Nees
  • Trachypogon canescens Nees
  • Trachypogon dactyloides (Steud.) E.Fourn.
  • Trachypogon densus Swallen
  • Trachypogon dissolutus Nees
  • Trachypogon durus Stapf
  • Trachypogon glaucescens Pilg.
  • Trachypogon gouinii E.Fourn.
  • Trachypogon gracilis Andersson
  • Trachypogon involutus Pilg.
  • Trachypogon karwinskyi (Hack.) Nash
  • Trachypogon ligularis Nees
  • Trachypogon mayaensis Wipff & S.D.Jones
  • Trachypogon micans Andersson
  • Trachypogon mollis Nees
  • Trachypogon muelleri E. Fourn.
  • Trachypogon palmeri Nash
  • Trachypogon parviflorus Swallen
  • Trachypogon planifolius Stapf
  • Trachypogon plumosus (Willd.) Nees
  • Trachypogon preslii Andersson
  • Trachypogon ramosus Swallen
  • Trachypogon rigidifolius Swallen
  • Trachypogon secundus (J.Presl) Scribn.
  • Trachypogon stenophyllus (Roem. & Schult.) Hitchc.
  • Trachypogon thollonii (Franch.) Stapf
  • Trachypogon truncatus (Nees) Andersson
  • Trachypogon violaceus Andersson

International Common Names

  • English: arrow grass; giant spear grass; greybeard grass
  • Spanish: zacate barba larga
  • French: herbe à moutons

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: capim carona
  • Cuba: espartillo sabanero; pajón
  • Mexico: barba larga
  • Venezuela: grama flecha; zacate flecha

Summary of Invasiveness

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Trachypogon spicatus is a perennial grass with a large native distribution range extending from North America to South America, and across tropical and subtropical Africa. This species is weedy within its native range and is considered a weed of plantations in Tanzania and a weed of pastures across Africa. Despite being included in a list of invasive plant species in Cuba, no information is provided regarding its impact, and another source records T. spicatus as native to Cuba.

Taxonomic Tree

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

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Trachypogon is a small genus of about 12 species that are native to the tropical and subtropical zones of Africa and America (Catalogue of New World Grasses, 2016; PROTA, 2017). This genus falls within the tribe Andropogoneae (subfamily Panicoideae). All species within this tribe carry out C4 photosynthesis and are often conspicuous elements of grasslands and savannas (Skendzic et al., 2007). For example, in northern South America the “Trachypogon savanna” is an extensive ecosystem covering large areas of grasslands that dominate the landscape (San Jose and Farinas, 1983).


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The following description is from PROTA (2017):

Perennial, tufted grass; stems up to 200 cm tall, bearded at the nodes. Leaves alternate; sheath with auricles at the mouth; ligule membranous, without a hairy fringe; blade filiform to linear, 15-40 cm x 1-7 mm, flat or with margins rolled in. Inflorescence terminal, composed of 1(-5) racemes 4-30 cm long; rachis tough, with linear internodes, glabrous. Spikelets paired, 1 subsessile, 1 pedicelled; subsessile spikelet male or sterile, oblong, 8-13 mm long, dorsally compressed, awnless, narrowly and usually inconspicuously winged on the margins above, persistent on the rachis; pedicelled spikelet 2-flowered, subterete, 8-13 mm long including the white bearded callus 1-3 mm long, pungent, obliquely attached to the internode, lower glume oblong, as long as spikelet, obtuse at the apex, leathery, glabrous or hairy, lower floret sterile, reduced to a hyaline lemma, upper floret bisexual, lemma linear, 0.5 mm long, entire, with a flexuous, pubescent or plumose awn 4-10 cm long, palea absent or minute, lodicules 2, stamens 3, ovary glabrous, stigmas 2. Fruit a rounded caryopsis. 


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T. spicatus is native to tropical and subtropical America from Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, in the USA, through Central America and the Caribbean to northern Argentina. It is also native to tropical and southern Africa and Madagascar (Zuloaga et al., 2008; Clayton et al., 2017; USDA-ARS, 2017). Though this species is present in Cuba, it is not clear whether it is native (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012) or introduced and invasive in the country (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012).

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


AngolaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
BeninPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
BotswanaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
Burkina FasoPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
BurundiPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
CameroonPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
Central African RepublicPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
CongoPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
Côte d'IvoirePresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
EthiopiaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
GhanaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
KenyaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
LesothoPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
MadagascarPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
MalawiPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
MaliPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
MozambiquePresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
NamibiaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
NigeriaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
RwandaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
South AfricaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
SudanPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
SwazilandPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
TanzaniaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
TogoPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
UgandaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
ZambiaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
ZimbabwePresentNativeClayton et al., 2017

North America

MexicoPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
USAPresentNativePresent based on regional records
-ArizonaPresentNativeUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-New MexicoPresentNativeUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-TexasPresentNativeUSDA-NRCS, 2017

Central America and Caribbean

BelizePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
Costa RicaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
CubaPresentAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
El SalvadorPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
GuatemalaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
HondurasPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
NicaraguaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
PanamaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
Trinidad and TobagoPresentNativeAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012

South America

ArgentinaPresentNativeZuloaga et al., 2008
BrazilPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
-AmapaPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-AmazonasPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-BahiaPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-Distrito FederalPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-GoiasPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-MaranhaoPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-Mato GrossoPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-Minas GeraisPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-ParaPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-ParaibaPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-PiauiPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-Rio Grande do NortePresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-RondoniaPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-RoraimaPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-Sao PauloPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-TocantinsPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
ColombiaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
EcuadorPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
French GuianaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
GuyanaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
ParaguayPresentNativeZuloaga et al., 2008
PeruPresentNativeClayton et al., 2017
SurinamePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
UruguayPresentNativeZuloaga et al., 2008
VenezuelaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017

History of Introduction and Spread

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The native distribution range of T. spicatus is extensive and there does not appear to be any evidence in the literature to suggest it has been introduced outside its native range.

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of T. spicatus is low, as this plant is not cultivated and is only used locally (PROTA, 2017).


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T. spicatus grows in both lowland and montane areas in semi-deciduous forests, grasslands and savannas (Bolivia Catalogue, 2017; PROTA, 2017). In Madagascar, it is recorded in sub-humid and montane grasslands (Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Madagascar, 2017). In Mexico, it grows in disturbed areas and grasslands, oak-forests and pine forests at low elevations (Herrera Arrieta and Pánames García, 2010). In South Africa, it is found in fynbos and grassland biomes (PROTA, 2017).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Natural
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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The chromosome number reported for T. spicatus is 2n = 20 (PROTA, 2017).

Physiology and Phenology

T. spicatus uses the C4 photosynthetic pathway (PROTA, 2017).

In southern Africa, T. spicatus grows during the summer months and flowers from October to May, while in South America it flowers and produces fruits from June to November (PROTA, 2017). Its growth rate is moderate to slow (PROTA, 2017).


The root of T. spicatus secretes a substance that stimulates the germination of the weed Tagetes minuta (Roux, 1953; PROTA, 2017).

Environmental Requirements

T. spicatus grows at elevations ranging from sea level to 2500 m (Zuloaga et al., 2008). It is found in wet, humid and semiarid habitats, and near seasonal wetlands, in areas with a mean annual rainfall of 600-1500 mm (PROTA, 2017). It often grows on sandy and gravely soils of pH 4.4-5.4 (Herrera Arrieta and Pánames García, 2010).


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Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
35 40 0 2500

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 10 28


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall6001500mm; lower/upper limits

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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T. spicatus spreads by seed dispersal (PROTA, 2017).

Environmental Impact

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T. spicatus is listed as invasive in Cuba. However, there is no information available about any impacts it may have in the country (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012). Furthermore, other sources suggest it may instead be native to Cuba (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012). It is considered a weed of plantations in Tanzania (PROTA, 2017).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Long lived
Impact outcomes
  • Negatively impacts agriculture


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T. spicatus is an unpalatable forage grass of limited value that is only grazed when it is very young. It is not cultivated, but is used locally, e.g. in Africa, as thatch on houses (PROTA, 2017).

Environmental Services

T. spicatus tends to form a dense soil cover, providing protection against erosion in areas with high rainfall (PROTA, 2017).


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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.

Bolivia Catalogue, 2017. Bolivia Catalogue. St. Louis, Missouri, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden.

Catalogue of New World Grasses, 2016. Catalogue of New World Grasses. St. Louis, Missouri, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden.

Catalogue of the Plants of Madagascar, 2017. Catalogue of the Plants of Madagascar. St. Louis, Missouri, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden.

Clayton WD, Govaerts R, Harman KT, Williamson H, Vorontsova M, 2017. World Checklist of Poaceae. Richmond, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Flora do Brasil, 2016. Brazilian Flora 2020 in construction.

Herrera Arrieta Y, Pánames García DS, 2010. Guía de pastos de Zacatecas. Durango, Mexico: Instituto Politécnico Nacional, 149 pp

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

PROTA, 2017. PROTA4U web database. Wageningen, Netherlands: Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.

Roux ER, 1953. The effect of antibiotics produced by Trachypogon plumosus on the germination of seeds of the kakiebos (Tagetes minuta). South African Journal of Science, 49:334

San Jose JJ, Farinas MR, 1983. Changes in tree density and species composition in a protected Trachypogon savanna, Venezuela. Ecology, 64:447-453

Skendzic EM, Columbus JT, Cerros-Tlatilpa R, 2007. Phylogenetics of Andropogoneae (Poaceae:Panicoideae) Based on Nuclear Ribosomal Internal Transcribed Spacer and Chloroplast trnL–F Sequences. Aliso: A Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany: 23:530-544

USDA-ARS, 2017. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory.

USDA-NRCS, 2017. The PLANTS Database. Baton Rouge, USA: National Plant Data Center.

Zuloaga FO, Morrone O, Belgrano MJ, 2008. Catálogo de las Plantas Vasculares del Cono Sur: (Argentina, Sur de Brasil, Chile, Paraguay y Uruguay) (Catalogue of the vascular plants of the southern cone (Argentina, southern Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay))., USA: Missouri Botanical Garden Press, 3348 pp

Links to Websites

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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.


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04/03/17 Original text by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

Distribution Maps

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