Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Digitaria ciliaris
(southern crabgrass)



Digitaria ciliaris (southern crabgrass)


  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Digitaria ciliaris
  • Preferred Common Name
  • southern crabgrass
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae

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Inflorescence on a long culm, usually much taller than the foliage, consisting of 2-9 racemes 5-10(-15) cm long, sub-digitate (the latin generic name means 'fingers') with one or more inserted up to 1 cm below the others.
CaptionInflorescence on a long culm, usually much taller than the foliage, consisting of 2-9 racemes 5-10(-15) cm long, sub-digitate (the latin generic name means 'fingers') with one or more inserted up to 1 cm below the others.
Copyright©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK
Inflorescence on a long culm, usually much taller than the foliage, consisting of 2-9 racemes 5-10(-15) cm long, sub-digitate (the latin generic name means 'fingers') with one or more inserted up to 1 cm below the others.
InflorescenceInflorescence on a long culm, usually much taller than the foliage, consisting of 2-9 racemes 5-10(-15) cm long, sub-digitate (the latin generic name means 'fingers') with one or more inserted up to 1 cm below the others.©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Digitaria ciliaris (Retz.) Koeler

Preferred Common Name

  • southern crabgrass

Other Scientific Names

  • Asprella digitaria Lamk.
  • Digitaria abortive Reeder
  • Digitaria adscendens (Kunth.) Henr.
  • Digitaria chinensis Horn.
  • Digitaria chrysoblephara Fig. & Denot.
  • Digitaria fimbriata Link
  • Digitaria inaequale (Link) Spreng.
  • Digitaria inaequalis (Link) Spreng.
  • Digitaria marginata Link
  • Digitaria pes-avis Buse
  • Digitaria sericea (Honda) Ohwi
  • Digitaria sunguinale sensu Britton & Millsp.
  • Digitaria tarapacana Phil.
  • Leersia digitata (Lam.) Poir.
  • Milium ciliare (Retz.) Moench
  • Panicum adscendens Kunth
  • Panicum brachyphyllum Steud.
  • Panicum ciliare Retz.
  • Panicum fimbriatum (Link) Kunth
  • Panicum linkianum Kunth
  • Panicum ornithopus Trin.
  • Panicum pes-avis (Buse) Koord.
  • Panicum villiferum Nees
  • Paspalum ciliare (Retz.) DC
  • Paspalum inaequale Link
  • Sanguinaria ciliaris (Retz.) Bubani
  • Syntherisma ciliare Schraders.
  • Syntherisma ciliaris (Retz.) Schrad
  • Syntherisma fimbriata (Link) Nash
  • Syntherisma henryi (Rendle) Newbold
  • Syntherisma marginatum (Link) Nash
  • Syntherisma sericea Honda

International Common Names

  • English: bamboo grass; blanket crabgrass; hairy crabgrass; Henry's crabgrass; large crabgrass; smooth crabgrass; summergrass; tropical finger grass
  • Spanish: frente de toro; fresadilla; hierba conejo; hierba estival; pangola; zacate de agua
  • Chinese: xian mao ma tang

Local Common Names

  • Australia: crab grass; summer grass
  • Bhutan: chittrey banso; tampula
  • Brazil: capim tinga; capim-colchao; capim-de-roça; capim-milhá; milhá
  • Dominican Republic: grama dulce cimarrona; pata de cotorra; pendejuelo
  • Germany: aufsteigende fingerhirse; wimper- fingerhirse
  • India: malsa; malsh; suruwari
  • Indonesia: jampang jemprak; jampang pait; suket djrempak; sunbak gangrir
  • Indonesia/Java: genjeran; jelamparan; suket ceker ayam
  • Japan: mehishiba
  • Malaysia: cakar ayam
  • Mexico: zacate cangrejo; zacate velludo
  • Peru: gramilla; pasto colchón; pata de gallo
  • Philippines: baludyangan; saka-saka
  • Puerto Rico: pata de gallina; yerba de juey
  • Sri Lanka: arisi pul; guru tana
  • Thailand: jya-ma-tang; yah-tin-nok; ya-plongkhanok
  • Vietnam: tuc hinh leo

EPPO code

  • DIGAD (Digitaria adscendens)
  • DIGCM (Digitaria commutata)
  • DIGNU (Digitaria nuda)
  • DIGPC (Digitaria pectiniformis)
  • PANBR (Panicum brevifolium)

Taxonomic Tree

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

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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This weed has had many names, among which D. adscendens may still be quite often used, though D. ciliaris is generally regarded as the preferred name. A more important question is the extent to which it is distinct from, and/or confused with, D. sanguinalis. As noted under Similarities to Other Species, the two species are distinguished by rather small and unreliable characters, and where they both occur, there is almost certain confusion between them, if indeed they are truly distinct species. For the purposes of this Compendium, information has been derived mainly from sources referring to D. ciliaris, though it has to be accepted that in some cases the name may have been wrongly applied. However, there is no evidence that the two species differ to any significant extent in terms of physiology, ecology or reaction to control measures, and some reference to the behaviour of D. sanguinalis has been included where appropriate.

The DAISIE (2014) database regards D. ciliaris as a synonym of D. sanguinalis, so European distribution data refers to both of these taxa.


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D. ciliaris is an annual grass, typically decumbent, rooting at the nodes and spreading to form untidy patches up to 1 m across and 50 cm high, although under crowded conditions it will grow more erect with culms up to 1 m high. The leaves are up to 25 cm long and 1 cm wide. Sheaths and lower parts of leaves loosely hairy on both surfaces. Ligule membraneous, 1-3 mm long. Inflorescence on a long culm, usually much taller than the foliage, consists of 2-9 racemes 5-10(-15) cm long sub-digitate (the latin generic name means 'fingers') with one or more inserted up to 1 cm below the others. The rachis of the racemes is up to 1 mm wide. The spikelets, arranged in pairs, one sessile and the other shortly pedicelled, are 2.5-3.5 mm long, tapering to an acute tip. The lower glume is a very short but distinct scale about 0.3 mm long; the upper glume at least half, usually about 3/4 the length of the spikelet, with three nerves. The upper lemma is as long as the spikelet and has 5-7 nerves, usually with a distinct space each side of the central one. The lateral nerves are smooth, without the scabrid character of D. sanguinalis but are variable in hairiness, sometimes with very long hairs. The upper lemma is smooth with only one nerve, grey to light brown. Grain 1.5-2 mm long.


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D. ciliaris is believed to have originated in Asia, but is now distributed throughout the tropics and sub-tropics of both hemispheres. In the USA it has a more southern distribution than D. sanguinalis, occurring widely south of a line from Nebraska to Virginia (Gleason and Cronquist, 1991).

The DAISIE (2014) database regards D. ciliaris as a synonym of D. sanguinalis, so European distribution data refers to both of these taxa.

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


BahrainPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
BangladeshPresentMoody, 1989; Clayton et al., 2014
BhutanWidespreadParker, 1992; Clayton et al., 2014
CambodiaPresentMoody, 1989; Waterhouse, 1993; Clayton et al., 2014
Chagos ArchipelagoPresentIntroduced Invasive Whistler, 1996
ChinaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
-AnhuiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-FujianPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-GansuPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-GuangdongPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-GuangxiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014
-GuizhouPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-HainanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-HebeiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-HeilongjiangPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-HenanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-HubeiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-HunanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-JiangsuPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-JiangxiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-JilinPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-LiaoningPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-Nei MengguPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-NingxiaPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-ShaanxiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-ShandongPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-ShanxiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-SichuanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-TibetPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-XinjiangPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-YunnanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
-ZhejiangPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Considered a weed
Georgia (Republic of)Present
IndiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
-Andhra PradeshPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-Arunachal PradeshPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-AssamPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-BiharPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-ChandigarhPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-ChhattisgarhPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-Dadra and Nagar HaveliPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-DamanPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-DelhiPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-DiuPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-GoaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-GujaratPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-HaryanaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-Himachal PradeshPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-Indian PunjabPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-Jammu and KashmirPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-JharkhandPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-KarnatakaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-KeralaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-Madhya PradeshPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-MaharashtraPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-ManipurPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-MeghalayaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-MizoramPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-NagalandPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-OdishaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-RajasthanPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-SikkimPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-Tamil NaduPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-TripuraPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-Uttar PradeshPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-UttarakhandPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-West BengalPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
IndonesiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; Waterhouse, 1993
-JavaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
IsraelPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
JapanPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
-HonshuPresentNumata et al., 1975
-KyushuPresentNumata et al., 1975
-ShikokuPresentNumata et al., 1975
Korea, DPRPresentNativeHolm et al., 1979; Clayton et al., 2014
Korea, Republic ofPresentNativeHolm et al., 1979; Clayton et al., 2014
LaosPresentMoody, 1989; Waterhouse, 1993; Clayton et al., 2014
MalaysiaPresentWaterhouse, 1993
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; Clayton et al., 2014
-SabahPresentHolm et al., 1979
-SarawakPresentHolm et al., 1979
MongoliaPresentYu et al., 1998
MyanmarPresentHolm et al., 1979; Waterhouse, 1993; Clayton et al., 2014
NepalPresentMoody, 1989; Clayton et al., 2014
OmanPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
PakistanPresentNativeMoody, 1989; Clayton et al., 2014
PhilippinesPresentHolm et al., 1979; Waterhouse, 1993
Saudi ArabiaWidespreadChaudhary et al., 1981; Clayton et al., 2014
SingaporePresentWaterhouse, 1993
Sri LankaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; Clayton et al., 2014
TaiwanWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; Clayton et al., 2014
ThailandWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; Waterhouse, 1993; Clayton et al., 2014
VietnamWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; Waterhouse, 1993; Clayton et al., 2014
YemenPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014


AlgeriaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
AngolaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
BeninPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
BotswanaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
Burkina FasoPresentHepper, 1972; Clayton et al., 2014
CameroonPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
Cape VerdePresentLima and Duclos, 2001
Central African RepublicPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
ChadPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
CongoPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
Côte d'IvoirePresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
DjiboutiPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
EgyptPresentTäckholm, 1974; Clayton et al., 2014
EritreaPresentStroud and Parker, 1989; Clayton et al., 2014
EthiopiaPresentStroud and Parker, 1989; Clayton et al., 2014
GambiaPresentHepper, 1972; Clayton et al., 2014
GhanaPresentHepper, 1972; Clayton et al., 2014
GuineaPresentHolm et al., 1979; Clayton et al., 2014
Guinea-BissauPresentHepper, 1972; Clayton et al., 2014
KenyaPresentClayton and Renvoize, 1982; Clayton et al., 2014
LiberiaPresentHepper, 1972; Clayton et al., 2014
LibyaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
MadagascarPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
MaliPresentHepper, 1972; Clayton et al., 2014
MauritaniaPresentHepper, 1972; Clayton et al., 2014
MauritiusPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979; PIER, 2014
MozambiqueWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; Clayton et al., 2014
NigerPresentHepper, 1972; Clayton et al., 2014
NigeriaPresentHepper, 1972; Clayton et al., 2014
RéunionPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
Saint HelenaPresentClayton et al., 2014
SenegalWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; Clayton et al., 2014
SeychellesPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
Sierra LeonePresentHepper, 1972; Clayton et al., 2014
SomaliaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2014
South AfricaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; Clayton et al., 2014
SudanPresentBebawi and Neugebohrn, 1991; Clayton et al., 2014
SwazilandPresentClayton et al., 2014
TanzaniaPresentClayton and Renvoize, 1982; Clayton et al., 2014
TunisiaPresentChaieb et al., 1996
UgandaPresentClayton and Renvoize, 1982; Clayton et al., 2014
ZimbabwePresentDrummond, 1984; Clayton et al., 2014

North America

MexicoPresentIntroduced Invasive Villaseñor and Espinosa-Garcia, 2004
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlabamaPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-ArizonaPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-ArkansasPresentCassida et al., 2000; USDA-NRCS, 2014
-CaliforniaPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-ConnecticutPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-DelawarePresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-FloridaPresentGilreath et al., 1999a; Gilreath et al., 1999b; USDA-NRCS, 2014
-GeorgiaPresentJohnson and Mullinix, 2002; USDA-NRCS, 2014
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979; Wagner et al., 1999
-IdahoPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-IllinoisPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-IndianaPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-KansasPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-KentuckyPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-LouisianaPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-MainePresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-MarylandPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-MississippiPresentKelly and Coats, 1999; USDA-NRCS, 2014
-MissouriPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-NevadaPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-New JerseyPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-New YorkPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-North CarolinaPresentYork et al., 1993; USDA-NRCS, 2014
-OhioPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-OklahomaPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-PennsylvaniaPresentHitchcock, 1950; USDA-NRCS, 2014
-South CarolinaPresentToler et al., 2002; USDA-NRCS, 2014
-TennesseePresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-TexasPresentGrichar et al., 2001; USDA-NRCS, 2014
-UtahPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-VirginiaPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2014

Central America and Caribbean

ArubaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
BahamasPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
BarbadosPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedGuana, Tortola
Cayman IslandsPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
Costa RicaPresentIntroducedVega and Rúgolo, 2007Alajuela, Cartago, Guancaste, Limon, Puntarenas, San José
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive García et al., 1985; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
CuraçaoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
DominicaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
El SalvadorPresentIntroducedVega and Rúgolo, 2007
GuadeloupePresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
GuatemalaPresentIntroducedVega and Rúgolo, 2007Alta Verapaz, Chimaltenango, Progreso, Izabal, Jalapa, Quetzaltenango, Retalhuleu
HaitiPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
HondurasPresentIntroducedVega and Rúgolo, 2007Atlantida, Choluteca, Colon
JamaicaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; Clayton et al., 2014
Netherlands AntillesPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedVega and Rúgolo, 2007Chinandega, Managua, Zelaya
PanamaPresentIntroducedVega and Rúgolo, 2007Canal, Chiriqui, Colon, Darien, Los Santos, Panama, San Blas, Veraguas
Puerto RicoPresentIntroduced Invasive Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentIntroduced Invasive Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Trinidad and TobagoPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
Turks and Caicos IslandsPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroducedZuloaga et al., 2008; Clayton et al., 2014Buenos Aires, Catamarca, Chaco, Cordoba, Corrientes, Entre Rios, Formosa, Juuy, La Pampa, La Rioja, Mendoza, Misiones, Salta, Santa Fe, San Juan, Tucuman
BoliviaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
BrazilPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AmazonasPresentIntroducedCanto-Dorow, 2014Naturalized
-BahiaPresentLorenzi, 1982; Canto-Dorow, 2014
-Espirito SantoPresentIntroducedCanto-Dorow, 2014Naturalized
-GoiasPresentLorenzi, 1982; Canto-Dorow, 2014
-MaranhaoPresentIntroducedCanto-Dorow, 2014Naturalized
-Mato GrossoPresentLorenzi, 1982; Canto-Dorow, 2014
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentLorenzi, 1982; Canto-Dorow, 2014
-Minas GeraisPresentLorenzi, 1982; Canto-Dorow, 2014
-ParaPresentIntroducedCanto-Dorow, 2014Naturalized
-ParaibaPresentIntroducedCanto-Dorow, 2014Naturalized
-ParanaPresentLorenzi, 1982; Canto-Dorow, 2014
-PernambucoPresentIntroducedCanto-Dorow, 2014Naturalized
-Rio de JaneiroPresentLorenzi, 1982; Canto-Dorow, 2014
-Rio Grande do SulPresentLorenzi, 1982; Canto-Dorow, 2014
-Santa CatarinaPresentLorenzi, 1982; Canto-Dorow, 2014
-Sao PauloPresentLorenzi, 1982; Canto-Dorow, 2014
-SergipePresentIntroducedCanto-Dorow, 2014Naturalized
ChilePresentIntroducedZuloaga et al., 2008; Clayton et al., 2014Primera Region
ColombiaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
EcuadorPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
French GuianaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
GuyanaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
ParaguayPresentIntroducedZuloaga et al., 2008; Clayton et al., 2014Itapua, Misiones, Paraguari, Presidente Hayes, San pedro
PeruPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
SurinamePresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
UruguayPresentIntroducedZuloaga et al., 2008; Clayton et al., 2014Artigas, Canelones, Cerro Largo, Colonia, Durazno, Lavalleja, Maldonado, Montevideo, Paysandú, Río Negro, Rivera, Soriano, Tacuarembó
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedHokche et al., 2008Amazonas, Apure, Aragua, Barinas, Delta Amacuro, Falcon, Guarico, Lara, Merida, Miranda, Monagas, Esparta, Portuguesa, Tachira, Trujillo, Yaracuy, Zulia


BelgiumPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
BulgariaPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
Czech RepublicPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
DenmarkPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
EstoniaPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
FinlandPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
GermanyPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
HungaryPresentSolymosi, 1996
IrelandPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
ItalyPresentHolm et al., 1979
LatviaPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
LiechtensteinPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
LithuaniaPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
MoldovaPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
NorwayPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
PortugalPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AzoresPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
-MadeiraPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
Russian FederationPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Russian Far EastPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014Primorye
SerbiaPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
SwedenPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
UKPresent, few occurrencesStace, 1991; DAISIE, 2014
-Channel IslandsPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
UkrainePresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014


American SamoaPresentIntroduced Invasive Space and Flynn, 2000
AustraliaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; Jacobs and Wall, 1993
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentIntroduced Invasive Jacobs and Wall, 1993
-New South WalesPresentIntroduced Invasive Jacobs and Wall, 1993
-QueenslandPresentIntroduced Invasive Jacobs and Wall, 1993
-South AustraliaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
-TasmaniaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
-VictoriaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
FijiPresentIntroduced Invasive Smith, 1979
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Lorence and Wagner, 2013
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Vander and Vander, 2006
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
NauruPresentIntroducedThaman et al., 1994
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
New ZealandPresentIntroduced Invasive Edgar and Connor, 2000
NiuePresentIntroduced Invasive Space et al., 2004
Norfolk IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentPIER, 2014
PalauPresentIntroduced Invasive Space et al., 2009
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
SamoaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
TongaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
US Minor Outlying IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Starr et al., 2008Invasive in the Eastern Island, Midway Atoll, San Island, Wake Island
VanuatuPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
Wake IslandPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
Wallis and Futuna IslandsPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014

History of Introduction and Spread

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The origin and native distribution range of D. ciliaris still remain uncertain. It is currently widely distributed throughout the tropics and subtropics, and while some authors consider the Old World (i.e., Asia and Africa) as the origin of the species (Acevedo-Rodríguez & Strong, 2012; Wagner et al., 1999; Oviedo et al., 2014; Clayton et al., 2014), other authors report it as native to Africa, tropical Asia, North America, Central America and South America as well (Zuloaga et al., 2008; USDA-ARS, 2014).  Therefore, determining the history of introduction of this species is difficult until more information becomes available. In the Caribbean (where most authors coincide listing this species as exotic) D. ciliaris was first reported in Cuba in 1865, in Puerto Rico and Jamaica in 1885, and in Hispaniola in 1887 (US National Herbarium).


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D. ciliaris is a typical weedy annual grass, flourishing mainly in disturbed, open areas, with full sun or partial shade. It is a widespread weed of annual and perennial crops, including pastures, in the tropics and sub-tropics. It is also abundant on roadsides and wasteland.

Lepschi and Macfarlane (1997) reported that D. aequiglumis appeared to be confined to drier sites, whereas D. ciliaris and D. sanguinalis occupied not only these areas but also moist soil in a shallow drainage ditch running parallel to a road.

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production) Present, no further details
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Wetlands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

Hosts/Species Affected

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D. ciliaris may occur in virtually any annual crop of the tropics and sub-tropics, and in most perennial crops and pastures. It is perhaps most conspicuous and troublesome in annual row-crops, including cereals, cotton, legumes and vegetables in which it establishes rapidly before the crop is casting adequate shade.

Biology and Ecology

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As an annual weed, D. ciliaris depends on seed production for its spread. There is some post-harvest dormancy which may last several months. Germination then occurs at temperatures above 20°C and is perhaps greatest under fluctuating temperatures of 20 and 35°C (Holm et al., 1977). Most germination occurs at or close to the soil surface (Osa et al., 1988), but some may occur from 5 cm depth (Takabayashi and Nakayama, 1979). Seeds can survive passage through cattle and thus contaminate farmyard manure (Takabayashi et al., 1979).

Flowering and seed production may be affected by daylength in some populations but others are day-length neutral and can flower and seed repeatedly throughout the growing season (Kataoka et al., 1986). The weed in Japan is mainly self-pollinated but with some out-crossing under natural conditions (Kataoka and Kataoka, 1991).

As a C4 plant, the weed is favoured by full sunlight and growth is suppressed by shading (e.g. Bantilan et al., 1974; Shetty and Shivakumar, 1982) though it is less susceptible than many other annuals (Noguchi and Nakayama, 1978) and does persist in the partial shade of many perennial tree crops.

The emerged plant is susceptible to frost but dormant seeds in the soil are not normally affected.

D. ciliaris often predominates at the early stages of secondary succession. The amount of carbon released into the soil through root exudation by D. ciliaris increased with the growth of Digitaria species in a laboratory experiment. The percentage of exuded carbon to photosynthetically net fixed carbon, which was higher at younger stages (13%) in D. ciliaris, decreased to 3.1% with time. The total amount of carbon released through root exudation in D. ciliaris was estimated at 3.1% of photosynthetically net fixed carbon. These results suggest that wild plants may exude a considerable amount of carbon from their roots to the soil and emphasizes the need to consider root exudation in the carbon cycle (Bekku et al., 1997).

All seeds of D. ciliaris were killed by exposure to heat at 55°C for 72 h and 60°C for 24 h. D. ciliaris was found to have low short duration and long duration heat tolerance (Nishida et al., 1999).

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 13
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 15 40
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 25 40
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 10 15


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall5001700mm; lower/upper limits

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Amblyseius hirotae Herbivore
Atherigona oryzae Herbivore
Cochliobolus heterostrophus Pathogen
Corticium sasakii Herbivore
Dicladispa armigera Herbivore
Lasioptera Herbivore
Pythium Pathogen
Stenotus rubrovittatus Herbivore

Notes on Natural Enemies

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There are few reports of significant damage to D. ciliaris from natural enemies and none have been seriously proposed as a means of biological control. Many of the species listed under Natural Enemies are better known as polyphagous pests of graminaceous and other crops and others require evaluation before being considered as potential biological control agents.

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
True seeds (inc. grain)
Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Fruits (inc. pods)
Growing medium accompanying plants
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches

Impact Summary

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Animal/plant collections Positive
Animal/plant products Negative
Biodiversity (generally) Positive
Crop production Negative
Environment (generally) Positive
Fisheries / aquaculture Positive
Forestry production Positive
Human health Positive
Livestock production Positive
Native fauna Positive
Native flora Positive
Rare/protected species Negative
Tourism Negative
Trade/international relations Negative
Transport/travel Negative

Economic Impact

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D. ciliaris is listed as a serious or principal weed of 11 countries, mainly in Asia (Holm et al., 1979) and in a wide range of crops, including groundnut, cotton, rice, maize, sorghum, vegetables, pineapple, cassava and tea. With the possible exception of tea all these are grown in such a way as to allow the weed to grow relatively unshaded, at least in the early stages.

It is regarded as an aggressive weed, especially competitive for nitrogen (Okumura et al., 1986). Competitive effects have been recorded on sorghum (ICRISAT, 1981).

It is suspected of allelopathic effects, not only on crops such as cucumber but against other weeds, nitrifying bacteria and Rhizobium (Ito et al., 1987; Ito and Ichikawa, 1994).

It may also act as an alternative host to crop pests and diseases, including Rice stripe virus and Rice black-streaked dwarf virus (Shinkai, 1955, 1957), Pangola stunt virus of sugarcane (Teakle et al., 1991), Sugarcane mosaic virus (Joshi and Gupta, 1976); Maize streak virus (Ekukole et al., 1989) and sorghum plantbug [Stenotus rubrovittatus] (Hayashi and Nakazawa, 1988).

There is some evidence that D. ciliaris and other weeds yields can deplete potassium in soils, resulting in reduced crop yields (Singh et al., 1996).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Panicum fauriei (Carter's panicgrass)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011
Plantago hawaiensis (Hawai'i plantain)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Competition - smotheringUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1996
Scaevola coriacea (dwarf naupaka)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010a
Sesbania tomentosaNational list(s) National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010b

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - smothering
  • Competition
  • Pest and disease transmission
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult/costly to control


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D. ciliaris cv. Red River is a high-yielding forage and conservation-type cultivar developed and released in 1988.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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There are about 200 species of Digitaria, all superficially similar with digitate or sub-digitate inflorescences. Precise identification requires at least a x10 hand-lens or ideally a low-power microscope, for close observation of the details and arrangement of the spikelets. Some species are perennial, have distinct growth habits or have spikelets in groups of three rather than two. Otherwise annual species are mainly distinguished on the basis of the shape, lengths and hairiness of the glumes and lemmas.

The species closest to D. ciliaris is D. sanguinalis, which differs mainly in having a shorter upper glume, not normally more than half the length of the spikelet, and in having the lateral nerves of the upper lemma scabrid towards the tip of the spikelet, but neither of these characters is very distinct and intermediates occur. In the USA, D. sanguinalis is said to differ in having leaf blades hairy (papillose-pilose) on the upper surface, often densely so, while in D. ciliaris they are only sparsely hairy near the throat (Gleason and Cronquist, 1991). D. sanguinalis is best known from North America and apparently has a more temperate distribution (D. ciliaris is known as southern crabgrass) but is also common in Europe and is recorded from many other countries of Asia and Africa. Bor (1960) remarks that a microscope is needed to see the scabrid nerves in Indian specimens of D. sanguinalis but that this species is "much less robust" than D. ciliaris.

Each region of the world has other annual species which commonly occur as weeds and which can also be confused with D. ciliaris. These include D. horizontalis in Africa and America, with more racemes, shorter, narrower spikelets, slightly hairy rachis, and upper glume only half the length of the spikelet. D. nuda, mainly in Africa, differs with smaller spikelets and absence of lower glume. In Asia, the species most likely to be confused is D. timorensis, which differs mainly in having narrower spikelets with lower glume less than half as long as the spikelet.

D. aequiglumis can be distinguished from D. ciliaris and D. sanguinalis by its distinctive pale green colour, absence of the lower glume, its upper glume being subequal to the lemma and its primary inflorescence branches being unwinged (Lepschi and Macfarlane, 1997).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Cultural Control

Manual control of D. ciliaris is complicated by the habit of rooting at the nodes, which means that small parts of the plant may remain and recover. Otherwise it is relatively easily controlled by mechanical means.

Solarization can be highly effective on this species (Nobuoka and Hosoda, 1992).

Smothering by legume cover crops is likely to be of value in perennial tree crops.

Chemical Control

D. ciliaris is susceptible to most of the main groups of grass-killing herbicides, including substituted ureas (diuron, etc.), uracils (bromacil), dinitroanilines (trifluralin, etc.), acetamides, thiolcarbamates (EPTC, etc., but not thiobencarb), dimethylethers (oxyfluorfen, etc.), graminicides (fluazifop, sethoxydim, etc.), imidazolinones (imazaquin, etc.), quinclorac, oxadiazon, clomazone, diphenamid, MSMA, paraquat, glufosinate and glyphosate. It is less susceptible than many other annual grasses to the triazine herbicides, and in maize, atrazine pre-emergence needs admixture with e.g. metolachlor. In rice, propanil is not effective beyond the early seedling stage, and thiobencarb may not be effective.

Within the graminicides, haloxyfop, quizalofop, clethodim, cycloxydim and fenoxaprop may give more reliable control than fluazifop (Grichar, 1991a; Pinto and Fleck, 1990)

Where broad-spectrum weed control requires the use of herbicide mixtures such as a graminicide with a broad-leaf weed killer, there are risks of antagonism in many combinations, e.g. sethoxydim with 2,4-DB, pyridate, bentazon, aciflurofen, but not always with lactofen (Grichar, 1991b). In most cases the antagonism can be avoided by applying the broad-leaf herbicide a day or two later than the graminicide.

Thanks to the wide range of effective compounds, control with herbicide should normally be possible in any broad-leaved or perennial crop and in most cereal crops. However, biotypes of D. sanguinalis with resistance to triazine herbicides have already occurred in Europe (LeBaron, 1991) and it is likely that resistance could also develop in D. ciliaris. It is very important that herbicide use should take account of the risks of resistant biotypes building up and repeated use of the same, or closely related, herbicide must be avoided. As so many herbicide groups are active, it should not be difficult to vary the type of compound used, even though this may mean not always using the least expensive product.

There are no reports of serious interest in, or attempts at, biological control.


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25/03/14 Updated by:

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

Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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