Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Pennisetum clandestinum
(Kikuyu grass)

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Datasheet

Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 20 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Pennisetum clandestinum
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Kikuyu grass
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • P. clandestinum is an aggressive perennial plant, spreading by rhizomes below ground, especially by long runners above ground, and it also sets seed. It is native to the highlands of eastern Africa but has been...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Pennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); flowering habit. Polipoli, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September 2002.
TitleFlowering habit
CaptionPennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); flowering habit. Polipoli, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September 2002.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2002 - CC BY 4.0
Pennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); flowering habit. Polipoli, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September 2002.
Flowering habitPennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); flowering habit. Polipoli, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September 2002.©Forest & Kim Starr-2002 - CC BY 4.0
Pennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); habit. Crater Rd Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. December 2006.
TitleHabit
CaptionPennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); habit. Crater Rd Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. December 2006.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2006 - CC BY 4.0
Pennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); habit. Crater Rd Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. December 2006.
HabitPennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); habit. Crater Rd Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. December 2006.©Forest & Kim Starr-2006 - CC BY 4.0
Pennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); habit. Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2003.
TitleHabit
CaptionPennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); habit. Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2003.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2003 - CC BY 4.0
Pennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); habit. Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2003.
HabitPennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); habit. Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2003.©Forest & Kim Starr-2003 - CC BY 4.0
Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); habit and leaves. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.
TitleHabit and leaves
CaptionPennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); habit and leaves. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.
Copyright©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); habit and leaves. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.
Habit and leavesPennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); habit and leaves. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); sheath. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.
TitleSheath
CaptionPennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); sheath. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.
Copyright©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); sheath. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.
SheathPennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); sheath. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); collar. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.
TitleCollar
CaptionPennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); collar. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.
Copyright©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); collar. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.
CollarPennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); collar. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); ligule. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.
TitleLigule
CaptionPennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); ligule. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.
Copyright©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); ligule. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.
LigulePennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); ligule. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); ligule. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.
TitleLigule
CaptionPennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); ligule. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.
Copyright©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); ligule. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.
LigulePennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass); ligule. Dungog, New South Wales, Australia. May 2018.©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Pennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); vegetative runner.
TitleVegetative runner
CaptionPennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); vegetative runner.
Copyright©FAO, Rome
Pennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); vegetative runner.
Vegetative runnerPennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); vegetative runner.©FAO, Rome
Pennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); Flowering shoots, showing exserted styles.
TitleFlowering shoots
CaptionPennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); Flowering shoots, showing exserted styles.
Copyright©FAO, Rome
Pennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); Flowering shoots, showing exserted styles.
Flowering shootsPennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); Flowering shoots, showing exserted styles.©FAO, Rome
Pennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); flowering shoots, showing exserted stamens.
TitleFlowering shoots
CaptionPennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); flowering shoots, showing exserted stamens.
Copyright©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK
Pennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); flowering shoots, showing exserted stamens.
Flowering shootsPennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass); flowering shoots, showing exserted stamens.©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Pennisetum clandestinum Hochst. ex. Chiov.

Preferred Common Name

  • Kikuyu grass

Other Scientific Names

  • Cenchrus clandestinus (Hochst. ex Chiov.) Morrone
  • Dicanthelium clandestinum (L.) Gould
  • Pennisetum inclusum Pilg.
  • Pennisetum longistylum var. clandestinum (Chiov.) Leeke

International Common Names

  • Spanish: capim-quicuio; hierba kikuyu; pasto kikuyu
  • French: kikuyo
  • Portuguese: capim-quicuio

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: capim-kikuio; Kikuyu
  • Germany: Kikuyugras
  • South Africa: Kikoejoegras (Afrikaans)
  • Sri Lanka: Kikiyu pul; Kikiyu tana

EPPO code

  • PESCL (Pennisetum clandestinum)

Summary of Invasiveness

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P. clandestinum is an aggressive perennial plant, spreading by rhizomes below ground, especially by long runners above ground, and it also sets seed. It is native to the highlands of eastern Africa but has been widely introduced elsewhere for forage and for soil conservation. In well managed situations it does not generally spread very far but it is highly tolerant of grazing and mowing and can steadily invade poorly managed plantations. It also readily invades natural vegetation with resultant loss of biodiversity. This has occurred in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hawaii and the Galapagos. It is listed as a Federal Noxious Weed in the USA.

Taxonomic Tree

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

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Pennisetumlongistylum is sometimes listed as a synonym for P. clandestinum, but is a distinct species, endemic to Ethiopia, now more usually known as P. villosum. Only the listed species and subspecies are valid synonyms.

Scholtz (2006) has proposed the transfer of P. clandestinum into the monotypic genus Kikuyuochloa, as K. clandestina (Hochst. ex Chiov.) H. Scholz. Generic status for the taxon is based mainly on a reinterpretation of its inflorescence morphology. A basal bristled involucrum is absent in Kikuyuochloa and the bristle configuration beneath the individual spikelets of Kikuyuochloa is not comparable to the bristled involucrum of Pennisetum. Scholtz (2006) also suggests that “the vegetative structure of Kikuyuochloa is reason enough for generic recognition”, however, this revision has not yet been generally accepted.

Description

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P. clandestinum is a low-growing perennial grass which spreads by underground rhizomes and above-ground runners. In open situations, growth is mainly by horizontal extension of the robust runners. The runners are several mm thick, and have internodes at intervals of about 5 cm, each with a single leaf sheath and blade. The blade is bright green, 3-4 mm wide, very short; only a few cm long towards the tips of vigorous runners, but up to 15 cm long in more closed vegetation. Leaves may be glabrous or softly hairy. A tiller may or may not develop within the leaf sheath. The ligule is a short hairy rim 1-2 mm long. The inflorescences are very inconspicuous, being almost totally enclosed in leafy axillary branches, and only apparent as a result of styles or stamens protruding from their tips. The inflorescence has only 2-4 spikelets, each 1-2 cm long with 2 florets and a circle of short bristles at their base. Stigma up to 3 cm long and stamens on fine silvery filaments up to 5 cm. Seeds about 2 mm long. For further detail see Holm et al. (1977). Below ground, the rhizomes have similar morphology to the runners, but without expanded leaves, occurring at depths of 20-30 cm.

Plant Type

Top of page Grass / sedge
Herbaceous
Perennial
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated

Distribution

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P. clandestinum originates in the highlands of East Africa, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (USDA-ARS, 2008). It has been very widely introduced into other parts of the world, usually deliberately, for use as a pasture grass and/or to prevent soil erosion (Holm et al., 1977).

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

BhutanWidespreadIntroducedParker, 1992
CambodiaRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; PIER, 2008; EPPO, 2014
ChinaPresentIntroduced1983Dong et al., 2005; PIER, 2008
-JiangxiRestricted distributionIntroduced Not invasive Ji et al., 2003
-YunnanPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced1983Dong et al., 2005
IndiaRestricted distributionIntroducedBor, 1979; EPPO, 2014
-Himachal PradeshLocalisedIntroducedBimal and Sindhu, 2004
-KarnatakaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedKrishanappa et al., 1998
-MeghalayaPresentIntroducedShukla, 1996
-SikkimPresentIntroducedShukla, 1996
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedShukla, 1996
-UttarakhandLocalisedIntroducedKandwal and Gupta, 2006
-West BengalPresentIntroducedShukla, 1996
IndonesiaPresentIntroducedBakar et al., 1990
-Irian JayaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2008
IsraelRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
JapanPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedHirata et al., 1996
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedRobles, 1979
Sri LankaRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979; Adikaram et al., 2001; EPPO, 2014
TaiwanPresentIntroduced Invasive Chou, 1989; PIER, 2008

Africa

AlgeriaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
AngolaRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
BurundiPresentNativeClayton and Renvoize, 1982
CameroonRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Clayton, 1972; Holm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
CongoPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; Clayton and Renvoize, 1982
Congo Democratic RepublicRestricted distributionClayton and Renvoize, 1982; USDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
EgyptRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
EritreaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
EthiopiaLocalisedNative Invasive Clayton and Renvoize, 1982
KenyaRestricted distributionNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979; Clayton and Renvoize, 1982; EPPO, 2014
MadagascarRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
MalawiPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
MauritiusRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
MoroccoRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
NamibiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
NigerPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979
NigeriaRestricted distributionIntroducedClayton, 1972; Holm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
RéunionPresentIntroduced Invasive Bonfils, 1993
RwandaPresentNativeClayton and Renvoize, 1982
South AfricaRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
Spain
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedScholz, 2006; Siverio et al., 2011; USDA-ARS, 2012
SwazilandRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
TanzaniaRestricted distributionNative Invasive Holm et al.,1979; Clayton and Renvoize, 1982; EPPO, 2014
TunisiaRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
UgandaRestricted distributionNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979; Clayton and Renvoize, 1982; EPPO, 2014
ZambiaPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; Clayton, 1989
ZimbabweRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; Clayton, 1989; EPPO, 2014

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedWeber, 2003; USDA-ARS, 2008
USAWidespreadIntroduced1925Wilen & Holt, 1979; Holm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
-ArizonaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
-CaliforniaRestricted distributionIntroducedWilen and Holt, 1996; USDA-NRCS, 2008
-HawaiiWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Snowcroft & Adee, 1991; Holm et al., 1979; PIER, 2008; EPPO, 2014
-UtahPresentIntroducedWilliams, 1987

Central America and Caribbean

Costa RicaRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
GuatemalaRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
JamaicaRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
MartiniquePresentIntroducedIRAT, 1982
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
PanamaRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
United States Virgin IslandsLocalisedIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2008

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroducedSisterna and Wolcan, 1990
BoliviaPresentIntroduced Invasive Ochoa and Andrade, 2003
BrazilRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Lorenzi, 1982; EPPO, 2014
-BahiaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
-GoiasPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-Minas GeraisPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-ParanaPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-Rio de JaneiroPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
-Rio Grande do SulPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-Santa CatarinaPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-Sao PauloPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
ChilePresentIntroducedNitsche, 1986
-Easter IslandPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
ColombiaRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; PIER, 2008; EPPO, 2014
EcuadorRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
ParaguayRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
PeruRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979; Versteeg et al., 1982; EPPO, 2014
UruguayRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
VenezuelaPresentIntroduced Invasive Machado and Zuvia, 1995

Europe

CyprusPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
FrancePresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-CorsicaPresentIntroducedJeanmonod and Schlüssel, 2006
GreecePresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
-CretePresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
ItalyPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Gherbin et al., 2007
PortugalPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-MadeiraPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
SpainLocalisedIntroduced Not invasive Valdés et al., 2005

Oceania

AustraliaRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Lamp and Collett, 1976; Holm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
-Australian Northern TerritoryLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Lamp and Collett, 1976
-New South WalesLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Lamp and Collett, 1976
-QueenslandLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Lamp and Collett, 1976; PIER, 2008
-South AustraliaLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Lamp and Collett, 1976
-TasmaniaLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Lamp and Collett, 1976
-VictoriaLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Lamp and Collett, 1976
-Western AustraliaLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Lamp and Collett, 1976
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2008
New ZealandRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979; Little, 1983; EPPO, 2014
Norfolk IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008
Papua New GuineaRestricted distributionPIER, 2008; EPPO, 2014

History of Introduction and Spread

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P. clandestinum has been very widely introduced, deliberately, as a pasture grass and for soil conservation, but there is little information on the dates when this occurred. It has then, almost inevitably, become a weed problem in West Africa (especially Cameroon), southern Africa, the highlands of several South American countries and highland areas of India and neighbouring Himalayan countries. Although becoming a serious weed locally where introduced, it has not necessarily spread too far from the point of introduction. Hence, although introduced to California, USA, in about 1925 (Mitich and Orcutt, 1985), it has not spread to other states of mainland USA. It was introduced to New Zealand in 1936 (Owen, 1996). Localization of this weed has arisen as a result of its susceptibility to hard frosts and the relatively small number of seeds it produces. It was introduced to China in 1983 (Dong et al., 2005).

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
California 1925  Yes No Mitich and Orcutt (1985)
China 1983 Yes No Dong et al. (2005)

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction by seed is relatively low, but deliberate introduction of vegetative material for amenity or ornamental use is still high. It is valued for turf and has an attractive, bright green foliage.

Habitat

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P. clandestinum is a tropical and sub-tropical grass, used in managed grasslands, urban areas and recreational areas (such as golf courses) as a turf grass, but commonly invades natural and managed forests, plantation crops and agricultural areas, as well as coastal areas, roadsides, etc.

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Natural
Cultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Industrial / intensive livestock production systems Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Industrial / intensive livestock production systems Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Natural grasslands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Principal habitat Natural
Riverbanks Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Littoral
Coastal areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)

Hosts/Species Affected

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In addition to the crops listed, many other annual and perennial crops are affected, together with pasture, turf and forestry species.

Host Animals

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List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Cardiovascular Signs / Tachycardia, rapid pulse, high heart rate Sign
Digestive Signs / Abdominal distention Sign
Digestive Signs / Anorexia, loss or decreased appetite, not nursing, off feed Sign
Digestive Signs / Bloat in ruminants, tympany Sign
Digestive Signs / Decreased amount of stools, absent faeces, constipation Sign
Digestive Signs / Decreased borborygmi, gut sounds, ileus Sign
Digestive Signs / Diarrhoea Sign
Digestive Signs / Dysphagia, difficulty swallowing Sign
Digestive Signs / Excessive salivation, frothing at the mouth, ptyalism Sign
Digestive Signs / Grinding teeth, bruxism, odontoprisis Sign
Digestive Signs / Rumen hypomotility or atony, decreased rate, motility, strength Sign
Digestive Signs / Vomiting or regurgitation, emesis Sign
General Signs / Abnormal proprioceptive positioning, knuckling Sign
General Signs / Ataxia, incoordination, staggering, falling Sign
General Signs / Cyanosis, blue skin or membranes Sign
General Signs / Dehydration Sign
General Signs / Dysmetria, hypermetria, hypometria Sign
General Signs / Fever, pyrexia, hyperthermia Sign
General Signs / Inability to stand, downer, prostration Sign
General Signs / Opisthotonus Sign
General Signs / Polydipsia, excessive fluid consumption, excessive thirst Sign
General Signs / Trembling, shivering, fasciculations, chilling Sign
Nervous Signs / Coma, stupor Sign
Nervous Signs / Dullness, depression, lethargy, depressed, lethargic, listless Sign
Nervous Signs / Propulsion, aimless wandering Sign
Nervous Signs / Seizures or syncope, convulsions, fits, collapse Sign
Pain / Discomfort Signs / Colic, abdominal pain Sign
Reproductive Signs / Agalactia, decreased, absent milk production Sign
Respiratory Signs / Increased respiratory rate, polypnea, tachypnea, hyperpnea Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Rough hair coat, dull, standing on end Sign
Urinary Signs / Polyuria, increased urine output Sign

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number of P. clandestinum is 2n = 36 (Meredith, 1955). Wilen et al. (1995) concluded that in California, USA, the populations studied showed relatively little genetic variation, and that vegetative spread was much more important than reproduction by seed. A number of varieties have been bred for pasture and turf purposes, but whether these are less aggressive as weeds is not clear.

Reproductive Biology

P. clandestinum spreads predominantly by vegetative means, above and below ground, by rhizomes and runners respectively. Holm et al. (1977) indicate that seed set is relatively rare outside the high altitude tropics and subtropics. In some populations, there is genetic male sterility, and seed is rarely set in South Africa (Meredith, 1955), or in New Zealand (White and Lovell, 1981). However, Ross (1999) records seed production of 200-400 kg/ha in Australia. Flowering is stimulated by mowing, and presumably by grazing. Out-crossing is encouraged by the stigmas being exserted several days ahead of the stamens (Wilen et al., 1995). Little information is available on seed biology, but longevity is at least 10 years and seeds are viable after passage through cattle, thus being spread in dung (Helfgott, 1994).

Physiology and Phenology

P. clandestinum is a C4 plant, able to photosynthesise over a wide temperature range, making it an especially successful species in Mediterranean climates (Wilen and Holt, 1996a).

Environmental Requirements

P. clandestinum occurs predominantly at high altitudes in tropical regions, generally where rainfall is high, though it is able to survive dry spells. It has been introduced to lower altitudes around the world and survives a wide range of conditions between 35°N and S, though not severe frost (Holm et al., 1977). It requires high nitrogen levels to grow rapidly. It is fire-resistant and tolerates moderate shade but is gradually suppressed as canopy cover increases. It tolerates a wide range of soil pH, and acid soils to pH 4, and has shown good tolerance of salinity up to 100 or 150 mM NaCl in South Africa (Radhakrishnan et al., 2006), but less tolerance of sodium sulphate (Mills et al., 2004) or alkalinity (Semple et al., 2004).

The foliage is damaged by frost, but recovery can occur from underground unless there is prolonged freezing of the soil. The weed thrives on high moisture but is deep-rooted (down to 2.5 m according to White et al. (2003) and can survive dry periods. It is able to grow in medium shade and is commonly a weed of forest and plantation crops. It survives repeated mowing, forms a close turf and is valued for ornamental and sporting purposes.

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Tolerated > 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 Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Tolerated < 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
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Tolerated 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 35

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 10 30
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 0

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration06number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall5002000mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Uniform
Winter

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • impeded

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • neutral
  • very acid

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • saline
  • shallow

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Cemus quilicii Herbivore
Margarodes upingtonensis Herbivore
Phakospora apoda Pathogen

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Listed natural enemies cause significant damage to P. clandestinum, but there has been no serious attempt to exploit any of these for biological control as this species is valuable as a turf grass and for erosion control. In New Zealand, it is reported that P. clandestinum is ‘highly susceptible’ to Gaeumannomyces graminis var. tritici (Chng et al., 2005). In Hawaii, the rust Phakospora aroda and the insects, Sphenophorus ventus vestitus and Herpetogramma licarsicalis cause damage, and it is reported to be susceptible to the yellow sugarcane aphid (Sipha sp.) (PIER, 2008).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Spread on a local basis is very largely by vegetative means, but in areas where seed is set, seed dispersal can also be significant. The seeds have no special dispersal mechanism but can be spread by water or animals, and on implements and vehicles. Long-distance, deliberate introduction is presumably both by seed and vegetatively, while accidental long-distance spread is more likely to be as seed, as a contaminant of crop seed.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Animal productionWidely introduced as a forage crop Yes
Crop productionWidely introduced as a forage crop Yes
Digestion and excretionSeeds can be eaten and spread via dung Yes
ForageWidely introduced as a forage crop Yes
Habitat restoration and improvement Yes Yes
HorticultureAs a turf grass Yes Yes
Landscape improvementAs a turf grass Yes Yes
Ornamental purposesAs a turf grass Yes Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Bulk freight or cargo Yes
Plants or parts of plantsSeed in contaminated crops Yes Yes
Water Yes

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Bulbs/Tubers/Corms/Rhizomes
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches
True seeds (inc. grain)

Impact Summary

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

Economic Impact

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P. clandestinum is included by Holm et al. (1977) among the world’s worst 100 weeds and is listed as a serious weed in eight countries (Holm et al., 1979). Although widely and deliberately introduced as a useful plant for grazing or soil conservation, it has, because of the difficulty in controlling its vegetative spread, become an invasive in many instances. There are no precise estimates of crop losses, but it inevitably interferes with the growth and cultivation of crops and is also believed to have some allelopathic effects on herbs, if not on trees (Chou, 1989; 1999). Allelopathy is also reported on tomato but not on beans (Michellon et al., 1996). In South America, lucerne fields can be completely devastated in 2-3 years following infestation by P. clandestinum (Helfgott, 1994). It can also create problems along irrigation channels, roadsides, in ornamental or sporting (e.g. golf course) turf and in industrial areas.

Weber (2003) indicates that it invades natural habitats in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, Hawaii and the Galapogos Islands.

Although regarded as a valuable pasture species it may cause toxicity to livestock, especially sheep (Waghorn et al., 2002); particularly under highly fertile conditions (Williams, 1987; Bourke, 2007); and perhaps when infected with certain fungi (Cheeke, 1995).

Environmental Impact

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In the southern Drakensburg, South Africa, O’Connor (2005) notes that species diversity is particularly low in a grassland dominated by P. clandestinum.

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Phyllostegia glabra var. lanaiensis (ulihi phyllostegia)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1995
Phyllostegia racemosa (kiponapona)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998
Phyllostegia velutina (velvet phyllostegia)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998
Plantago hawaiensis (Hawai'i plantain)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiAllelopathic; Competition - monopolizing resources; Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1996
Pritchardia schattaueri (Lands of Papa pritchardia)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - stranglingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009a
Santalum freycinetianum var. lanaienseNo DetailsHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011
Spermolepis hawaiiensis (Hawaii scaleseed)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010
Tetramolopium remyi (Awalua Ridge tetramolopium)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - stranglingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1995
Viola lanaiensis (Hawaii violet)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified); Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1995
Zanthoxylum dipetalum var. tomentosumCR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Competition - smothering; Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009b

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Gregarious
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Conflict
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Host damage
  • Increases vulnerability to invasions
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts cultural/traditional practices
  • Negatively impacts forestry
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
  • Reduced amenity values
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Soil accretion
Impact mechanisms
  • Allelopathic
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - smothering
  • Competition - strangling
  • Competition
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

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P. clandestinum is a valuable pasture species in many situations and has been widely introduced for this purpose. Holm et al. (1977) refer to its use for dairy production in eastern Australia, and to its importance in Hawaii and Colombia. In South Africa, it has a higher protein content (20-25%) than most other pasture species, but in a review of its nutritive value, Marais (2001) notes that it lacks sufficient readily digestible carbohydrate for the high-energy requirements of dairy cattle. Its oxalic acid content reduces calcium availability, and it is low in sodium leading to Ca/P and Ca/Mg imbalances. Miles et al. (1996) further report high levels of K which can lead to excessive K:Ca+Mg ratio and the danger of hypomagnesaemic tetany. When heavily fertilised, certain nitrogenous substances can cause toxicity, and poisoning of livestock has been widely reported, especially in sheep (Waghorn et al, 2002). In New Zealand, it is considered to provide a poorer quality pasture than perennial ryegrass (Jackson et al., 1996). For further information on its use as a pasture grass see Meredith (1955) and Mears (1970).

P. clandestinum is also a highly valued species for turf, both for ornamental and sports purposes. In Colombia, a sward of P. clandestinum was noted to help suppress the invasive weed species Senecio inaequidens (Prieto and Sanchez, 2004).

It has been used for stabilizing soils on steep slopes, which it does very efficiently with its deep roots and rhizome systems, and tolerance of varying moisture conditions. In South Africa, greater soil microbial and earthworm biomass has been measured under P. clandestinum than under maize or sugar cane (Dlamini and Haynes, 2004; Haynes and Graham, 2005). It has been tested with varying success in a number of countries in water re-use or soil reclamation systems, to remove various contaminants including herbicides (e.g. simazine and atrazine) and heavy metals.

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Forage

Environmental

  • Agroforestry
  • Amenity
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Land reclamation
  • Landscape improvement
  • Ornamental
  • Revegetation
  • Soil conservation

General

  • Ornamental

Materials

  • Poisonous to mammals

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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The most closely related species, P. villosum, is restricted to Ethiopia and has an almost fully exserted inflorescence with plumose bristles up to 7 cm long.

In the vegetative stage, the other rhizomatous perennial grass weeds with which it is most likely to be confused are Paspalum distichum and P. vaginatum. These have a somewhat similar bright green foliage but they have distinct membranous ligules. Digitaria abyssinica and Cynodon dactylon generally have more glaucous foliage, with leaves also longer in D. abyssinica and with 2-3 leaves per node in C. dactylon.

Prevention and Control

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Prevention

P. clandestinum is a listed as a Federal Noxious Weed in the USA.

Cultural Control

Control by tillage is extremely difficult. The rhizomes penetrate to 20-30 cm, and are moderately resistant to desiccation; it is difficult therefore, to achieve quick eradication with anything but very heavy tillage equipment, under the right climatic conditions.

In pastures, successful introduction of clovers (Trifolium spp.) into the sward depends on combinations of heavy grazing, forage harvesting, or mulching and withholding nitrogen fertilization before the clover is sown (Fulkerson and Reeves, 1996). Among other factors, Wilen and Holt (1996b) showed reduced growth with mowing. Non-chemical renovation of P. clandestinum pasture by cultivation, reseeding and, or plugging, is also described by Hanson et al. (1980). In Kenya, infestation following a maize crop is reduced by planting a legume fallow (Cheruiyot et al., 2003). In ornamental nurseries, plastic mulches may be used (DeFrank and Easton-Smith, 1990). 

Biological Control

There has been no serious attempt to exploit any natural enemies of P. clandestinum for biological control as this species is valuable as a turf grass and for erosion control.

Chemical Control

P. clandestinum is controlled by the standard herbicides for perennial grasses, especially glyphosate and dalapon applied before crop planting, or as directed sprays in perennial crops. Fluazifop-butyl and haloxyfop are also useful for selective control in established broad-leaved annual crops. Glufosinate and paraquat are much inferior. Bromacil has proved selective in citrus.

In turf grasses, mixtures including MSMA (usually plus triclopyr) are commonly used (Cudney et al., 1994; Breuninger et al., 1996; Beehag, 2000). Beeehag (2000) notes that no herbicides are registered for controlling P. clandestinum in turf in Australia, but that the weed is susceptible to bensulide and pronamide as well as MSMA and DSMA.

Nyabundi et al. (1998) reviewed control methods in coffee. In pasture situations, the sward is usually destroyed by glyphosate before re-sowing. In ornamentals, oryzalin and oxyfluorfen have proved effective (DeFrank and Easton-Smith, 1990). It is undamaged by dicamba, 2,4-D, bromoxynil and picloram when these are used to control broad-leaved weeds in turf or pasture, or by fluroxypyr or metsulfuron . It has also shown tolerance of atrazine in tests of different grass species as filters for contaminated water (Popov and Cornish, 2006).

References

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS)http://griis.org/Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

Contributors

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10/03/2008 Updated by:

Chris Parker, Consultant, UK

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