Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Cynodon plectostachyus
(African stargrass)

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Datasheet

Cynodon plectostachyus (African stargrass)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Cynodon plectostachyus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • African stargrass
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • C. plectostachyus is a grass cultivated as a forage species that has been established and has persisted in pastures across the tropics and which currently occupies a large area principally in wet areas. It can...

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Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Cynodon plectostachyus (K.Schum.) Pilg.

Preferred Common Name

  • African stargrass

Other Scientific Names

  • Cynodon plectostachyus var. ruspolianus (Chiov.) Chiov.
  • Cynodon ruspolianus Chiov.
  • Leptochloa plectostachya K.Schum.

International Common Names

  • English: giant star grass; Star bermudagrass; star grass
  • Spanish: bermuda mejorado; pasto estrella; zacate estrella
  • Portuguese: capim estrela; estrela africana; estrela roxa

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: capim-estrela-africana; capim-estrela-da-áfrica
  • Costa Rica: pasto Bermuda mejorado; pasto Hawaiiano
  • Cuba: hierba de la Bermuda
  • East Africa: Naivasha star grass
  • Germany: Afrikanisches Hundszahngras
  • Mexico: pasto estrella africano
  • Puerto Rico: estrella blanca; estrella gigante; minilla

EPPO code

  • CYNPL (Cynodon plectostachyus)

Summary of Invasiveness

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C. plectostachyus is a grass cultivated as a forage species that has been established and has persisted in pastures across the tropics and which currently occupies a large area principally in wet areas. It can grow on a wide range of habitats and soil types and competes well with other grasses and weeds due to its aggressive growth and rapid propagation. It is a fast-growing grass characterized by a rapid elongation of stolons and a rapid production and death of leaves, displacing native vegetation and generating large accumulation of dry-matter biomass associated with changes in fuel load and fire regimes in invaded habitats (Barkworth, 2003; Heuzé et al., 2015; PROTA, 2015). C. plectostachyus recovers quickly after fire, and can even benefit from fire through spittlebug and disease control (FAO, 2015; Heuzé et al., 2015). Currently, C. plectostachyus is listed as invasive in California (USA), Cuba, and Brazil (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012; I3N-Brasil, 2015; USDA-NRCS, 2015).

Taxonomic Tree

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

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Poaceae is one of the largest families in the Angiosperms, including over 700 genera and 11,000 species widely distributed in all regions of the world (Stevens, 2012). Cynodon is a genus of 11 species (The Plant List, 2013), all of which are native to tropical regions of the Eastern Hemisphere. Due to similar morphologies, the taxonomy of Cynodon species has been a source of confusion. Before 1970, Cynodon aethiopicus, Cynodon nlemfuensis and Cynodon plectostachyus were referred as Cynodon dactylon and Cynodon aethiopicus (Taliaferro et al., 2004). However, Bogdan (1977) stated that larger forms of C. dactylon with a few whorls of racemes were actually C. plectostachyus (Cook et al., 2005; Heuzé et al., 2015). Several Cynodon species are widely used as lawn and forage grasses in tropical and warm-temperate regions (Barkworth, 2003).

Description

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C. plectostachyus is a stoloniferous, not rhizomatous perennial grass; stolons to 2 mm thick, arching. Culms 60-100 cm tall, 1-4 mm thick, glabrous. Sheaths mostly glabrous or sparsely to densely pilose, with long hairs adjacent to the ligules; ligules 1-2 mm; blades to 30 cm long, 4-8 mm wide, both surfaces scabrous and densely pubescent. Panicles with 6-20 subdigitate branches; branches 3-10 cm, in (1)2-7 closely spaced whorls, axes triquetrous. Spikelets 2.5-3 mm, closely imbricate; rachillas prolonged, glabrous, sometimes terminating in a vestigial floret. Lower glumes 0.1-0.3 mm; upper glumes 0.4-0.6 mm; lemmas 2.4-3 mm, keels not winged, keels and margins pubescent, hairs 0.3-0.4 mm; paleas stiffly ciliate on the keels (Barkworth, 2003).

Plant Type

Top of page Grass / sedge
Perennial
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated

Distribution

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C. plectostachyus is native to East Africa (Clayton et al., 2015). It can be found naturalized and widespread throughout the tropics and subtropics (see distribution table; Clayton et al., 2015; PROTA, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015).

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

Asia

BangladeshPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2015
NepalPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2015

Africa

ChadPresentNativeClayton et al., 2015
EthiopiaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2015
KenyaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2015
MadagascarPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2015
South AfricaPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2015Cultivated
TanzaniaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2015
UgandaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2015
ZambiaPresentIntroducedPhillips, 1995
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedPROTA, 2015Cultivated

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2015Baja California, Campeche, Colima, Durango, Hidalgo, Nayarit, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, Quitana Roo, San Luis Potosi, Sonora, Tabasco, Veracruz, Tamaulipas, Yucatan
USA
-CaliforniaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2015Noxious weed

Central America and Caribbean

CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
HondurasPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2015
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedMás and Molinari, 1990

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroducedZuloaga et al., 2008Buenos Aires, Chaco, Córdoba, Corrientes, Distrito Federal, Entre Ríos, Misiones, Santa Fe, Misiones
BrazilRestricted distributionIntroducedI3N-Brasil, 2015Santa Catarina
-Santa CatarinaPresentIntroduced Invasive I3N-Brasil, 2015
ParaguayPresentIntroducedZuloaga et al., 2008Alto Paraguay

History of Introduction and Spread

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C. plectostachyus was introduced in warm, moist and wet regions of the Americas in the 1930s and has become one of the most widespread grass species in Mexico, South America, and the West Indies (Más and Molinari, 1990; Yong-Ángel et al., 2012).

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of C. plectostachyus is moderate to high. This grass has been intentionally introduced in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It has repeatedly escaped from cultivation and rapidly colonizes disturbed environments and forms dense stands with the potential to displace native vegetation and alter fire regimes in invaded areas (Barkworth, 2003; Cook et al., 2005; FAO, 2015; Heuzé et al., 2015; PROTA, 2015).

Habitat

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C. plectostachyus occurs in disturbed areas, agricultural land, wet habitats, grasslands, cattle paddocks, and along roadsides (Cook et al., 2005; FAO, 2015; I3N-Brasil, 2015). It is drought tolerant and can also withstand temporary flooding. It has good tolerance of salinity and alkaline soils (FAO, 2015; PROTA, 2015).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial – ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Productive/non-natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number reported for C. plectostachyus varies from 2n = 18 to 2n= 36 (Barkworth, 2003; Cook et al., 2005; Heuzé et al., 2015).

Physiology and Phenology

C. plectostachyus is a perennial, fast growing, C4 grass. In the Northern hemisphere, C. plectostachyus’ yields are highest during the rainy season (June to October), decline during the dry season (February to May) and are lowest in winter (November to March) due to low temperatures and short photoperiods (Yong-Ángel et al., 2012; Heuzé et al., 2015). In Puerto Rico, C. plectostachyus produces flowers between February and May (Más and García-Molinari, 1990).

Environmental Requirements

C. plectostachyus can grow on a wide range of soils, from sandy loams to black cracking clay soils with pH ranging from 6.5-8.5, but grows best in the neutral to slightly alkaline range. This species has the potential to establish in areas where rainfall may be as low as 400 mm or as high as 4000 mm. However, it does better where rainfall is between 500 and 1500 mm (Cook et al., 2005; FAO, 2015; Heuzé et al., 2015). This species is drought tolerant and can also withstand temporary flooding. It has good tolerance of salinity and alkaline soils. It grows better in full sunlight areas and may survive some frost, but low temperatures reduce growth (Cook et al., 2005; Yong-Ángel et al., 2012; FAO, 2015; Heuzé et al., 2015; PROTA, 2015).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
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 Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 18 27

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration05number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall4004000mm; lower/upper limits

Soil Tolerances

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Soil reaction

  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • saline

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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C. plectostachyus spreads by seeds and vegetatively by stolons. Plants are capable of significant seed production. Seeds can be dispersed as a contaminant in machinery and adhered to human clothes and animal fur (I3N-Brasil, 2015). Under suitable environmental conditions its stoloniferous habit allows it to spread rapidly (FAO, 2015).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Animal productionCultivated as pasture grass Yes Yes Cook et al., 2005
DisturbanceNaturalized along roadsides and in disturbed sites Yes Yes PROTA, 2015
Escape from confinement or garden escapeNaturalized along roadsides and in disturbed sites Yes Yes PROTA, 2015
ForageGrazed, and used for hay and silage Yes Yes Cook et al., 2005
Habitat restoration and improvementPlanted for stabilization of mine dumps Yes PROTA, 2015

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Debris and waste associated with human activitiesSeeds and stolons escaped from pastures Yes Yes Cook et al., 2005
LivestockPasture grass Yes Cook et al., 2005
Soil, sand and gravelSeeds and stolons Yes Cook et al., 2005
Land vehiclesSeeds and stolons Yes Cook et al., 2005

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Environmental Impact

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C. plectostachyus is an aggressive invasive grass that rapidly colonizes moist and wet disturbed habitats. Once established, it competes well with other grasses, native species and weeds due to its aggressive growth and rapid propagation (I3N-Brasil, 2015).

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
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Gregarious
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of hydrology
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - smothering
  • Hybridization
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field

Uses

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C. plectostachyus is a grass species palatable to all classes of livestock and thus it is cultivated as a forage, fodder, and pasture grass, grazed or used for hay or silage (Cook et al., 2005).

In South Africa, C. plectostachyus is used for stabilization of mine dumps, and also with success used on sloping cultivated land (PROTA, 2015).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Forage

Environmental

  • Soil conservation
  • Soil improvement

Materials

  • Poisonous to mammals

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Taxonomical and DNA comparisons have indicated strongest similarities for the species C. aethiopicus, C. nlemfuensis and C. plectostachyus, all of which are stoloniferous grasses native to Africa. C. plectostachyus has 2-7 raceme whorls, compared with 1-2 in C. nlemfuensis and 2-5 in C. aethiopicus. Leaves of C. plectostachyus are soft and hairy, while those of C. nlemfuensis are glaucous, ± hair (Cook et al., 2005). C. plectostachyus can also be identified by the small glumes, rarely as long as one- third of the spikelet (FAO, 2015).

Prevention and Control

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Cynodon species are generally fairly tolerant of glyphosate at normal rates, but appear susceptible to haloxyfop and triclopyr (Cook et al., 2005).

References

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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. http://botany.si.edu/Antilles/WestIndies/catalog.htm

Barkworth ME, 2003. Cynodon. In: Barkworth ME, Capels KM, Long S, Anderton LK, Piep MB, Eds. Flora of North America vol. 25. http://herbarium.usu.edu/webmanual/

Bogdan AV, 1977. Tropical pasture and fodder plants. London, UK: Longman. 475 pp..

Clayton WD, Govaerts R, Harman KT, Williamson H, Vorontsova M, 2015. World Checklist of Poaceae. Richmond, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/

Cook BG, Pengelly BC, Brown SD, Donnelly JL, Eagles DA, Franco MA, Hanson J, Mullen BF, Partridge IJ, Peters M, Schultze-Kraft R, 2005. Tropical Forages: an interactive selection tool. Brisbane, Australia: CSIRO, DPI&F, CIAT, ILRI. http://www.tropicalforages.info/

FAO, 2015. FAO Grassland Species Profiles. Online resources for Cynodon plectostachyus. http://www.fao.org/ag/agp/agpc/doc/Gbase/Default.htm

Heuzé V, Tran G, Salgado P, Lebas F, 2015. Giant star grass (Cynodon plectostachyus). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. http://www.feedipedia.org/node/468

I3N-Brasil, 2015. Base de dados nacional de espécies exóticas invasora (National database of exotic invasive species). Florianópolis - SC, Brazil: I3N Brasil, Instituto Hórus de Desenvolvimento e Conservação Ambiental. http://i3n.institutohorus.org.br

Más EG, Molinari OG, 1990. Guía ilustrada de yerbas comunes en Puerto Rico. Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto Universitario de Mayagüez, Colegio de Ciencias Agrícolas, Servicio de Extensión Agrícola

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.

Phillips S, 1995. Poaceae (Gramineae)., Flora of Ethiopia, 7:1-420

PROTA, 2015. PROTA4U web database. Wageningen, Netherlands: Plant Resources of Tropical Africa. http://www.prota4u.org/search.asp

Stevens PF, 2012. Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. http://www.mobot.org/MOBOT/research/APweb/

Taliaferro CM, Rouquette FM, Mislevy P, 2004. Bermudagrass and Stargrass. Warm-season (C4) grasses., Agronomy Monograph, 45:417-475

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

USDA-ARS, 2015. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, USA. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/tax_search.pl

USDA-NRCS, 2015. The PLANTS Database. Baton Rouge, USA: National Plant Data Center. http://plants.usda.gov/

Yong-Ángel G, Pires-Silveira VC, Avilés-Nova F, Castelán-Ortega OA, 2012. Modeling growth of star grass (Cynodon plectostachyus) in the subtropical regions of Central Mexico., Tropical and Subtropical Agroecosystems, 15(2):273-300

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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WebsiteURLComment
Cynodon spp. at Tropical Forageshttp://www.tropicalforages.info/key/Forages/Media/Html/Cynodon_spp.htm
FAO datasheet on Cynodon plectostachyushttp://www.fao.org/ag/agp/agpc/doc/gbase/data/pf000210.htm

Contributors

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04/05/16 Original text by:

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

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