Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Setaria verticillata
(bristly foxtail)



Setaria verticillata (bristly foxtail)


  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Setaria verticillata
  • Preferred Common Name
  • bristly foxtail
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • S. verticillata is listed by Holm et al. (1979) as a ‘serious’ or ‘principal’ weed in 11 countries in Europe, Asia...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Setaria verticillata (L.) P. Beauv. (1812)

Preferred Common Name

  • bristly foxtail

Other Scientific Names

  • Chaetochloa verticillata (L.) Scribn. (1879)
  • Ixophorus verticillatus (L.) Nash (1859)
  • Panicum aparine Seud. (1854)
  • Panicum asperum Lamk. (1778)
  • Panicum respiciens (A. Rich.) Steud. (1854)
  • Panicum rottleri Nees (1841)
  • Panicum verticillatum L. (1762)
  • Pennisetum respiciens A. Rich. (1851)
  • Pennisetum verticillatum (L.) Nash (1817)
  • Setaria adhaerens (Forssk.) Chiov.
  • Setaria ambigua (Guss.) Guss.
  • Setaria aparine (Steud.) Chiov. (1912)
  • Setaria nubica Link. (1827)
  • Setaria verticillata var. ambigua (Guss.) Parl.
  • Setaria verticilliformis Dumort.
  • Setaria viridis var. ambigua

International Common Names

  • English: rough bristle grass; tropical barbed bristle grass; whorled pigeon grass (Australia)
  • Spanish: almorejo verticilado; alorejo; amor de hortelano; carreig; cola de zorro; lagartera; panissola; pata de gallina; pega-pega; rabo de zorro; zacate pegarropa
  • French: setaire verticillee
  • Arabic: quam el-far
  • Portuguese: capim-grama; milha-verticilada; pega-saias

Local Common Names

  • Argentina: cola de zorro; hierba pegajosa
  • Chile: pega-pega
  • East Africa: love grass
  • Ethiopia: asinabo; be-getti-fedaui; marbo; yemogne fitur
  • Germany: Kletten Borstenhirse; Quirl Borstenhirse; Wirtel Borstenhirse
  • Indonesia: kamala; oehoe
  • Italy: fieno stellino; panico maggiore
  • Japan: zaratsukienokorogusa
  • Lebanon: dukhain; khishin
  • Netherlands: Kransnaaldaar
  • Peru: rabo de zorro
  • South Africa: bur bristle grass
  • Sudan: lossaig
  • Sweden: kolvhirs
  • Thailand: yah hang chnig-chok
  • Turkey: kirpi dari
  • USA: barbed bristle grass; bur bristle grass; hooked bristle grass
  • USA/Hawaii: mau‘ pilipili
  • Zimbabwe: bur grass

EPPO code

  • SETAD (Setaria adhaerens)
  • SETVE (Setaria verticillata)

Summary of Invasiveness

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S. verticillata is listed by Holm et al. (1979) as a ‘serious’ or ‘principal’ weed in 11 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and the Pacific. From its origins in Europe and perhaps Africa, it has been accidentally introduced to many other countries across the world. It is often listed as one of the two or three most important weeds in a wide range of crops, within and outside its native range, and it can also become dominant in grassland. The combination of ready dispersal by its ‘sticky’ seed and seed-heads, and its C4 physiology and rapid growth make it an extremely successful invader. It adapts to local conditions rapidly and has developed resistance to atrazine and other herbicides.

Taxonomic Tree

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

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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S. verticillata sensu latu includes both the diploid, tropical S. adhaerens and the polyploid, more temperate, S. verticillata sensu stricto. Typical examples of these taxa can be distinguished on the basis that S. adhaerens has smaller spikelets less than 2 mm long, hairy leaf blades and glabrous sheath margins, while S. verticillata s.s. has larger spikelets over 2 mm long, glabrous leaf blades and ciliate sheath margins. Several authorities have in the past commented that these morphological characters are not always distinct, suggesting a complex of intergrading populations, best treated as a single polymorphic species (Hepper, 1972; Clayton and Renvoize, 1982). Since it has become clear that the two taxa have different ploidy, they are now more commonly distinguished, as in the UK (Sell and Murrell, 1996), in Israel (Danin and Scholtz, 1997) and the USA (USDA-ARS, 2008; USDA-NRCS, 2008). However, due to the confusion between the two in much of the weed science literature they are treated together under S. verticillata in this datasheet, with comment on the individual taxa where appropriate.

A form without retrorse barbs is known variously as S. ambigua (Guss.) Guss, S. verticilliformis Dumort., S. verticillata var. ambigua (Guss.) Parl., or S. viridis var. ambigua (Steel et al., 1983; Douglas et al., 1985; Stace, 1991). According to Hafliger and Scholtz (1980) this form is widespread in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, also occurring in Central America. Stace (1991) also states that previous treatments of this variety as a hybrid between S. verticillata and S. viridis are incorrect. USDA-ARS (2008) accept S. verticilliformis as a separate species, though the taxonomical relationships and synonymy remain unclear.


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S. verticillata is a loosely tufted annual grass, up to 1 m high, the branches spreading geniculately and often rooting at the lower nodes. The nodes are glabrous, often dark-coloured. The leaves are up to 30 cm long and 1-1.5 cm wide, with an acute apex, thin, soft with distinct veins, usually glabrous (loosely hairy in S. adhaerens). The sheath has a ciliate margin in the temperate form (glabrous in S. adhaerens). The ligule is a short fringe of hairs, 1-2 mm long. The inflorescence is a narrow, spike-like panicle, 5-15 cm long, more or less cylindrical but somewhat lobed with the rachis visible in places. The spikelets are in clusters on short branchlets around the rachis. Individual spikelets are 2-2.4 mm long (1.5-2 mm in S. adhaerens), each subtended by 1-3 bristles, 2-8 mm long, which are retrorsely barbed, making them cling to fur and clothing, and often to other inflorescences. The lower glume is less than half as long as the spikelet, the upper glume as long as, and hiding the finely wrinkled upper lemma. A form without the retrorse bristles is known as var. ambigua (see Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature). Caryopsis is pale brown, broadly ovoid, slightly dorsiventrally compressed, 1.2-1.5 mm long. Adapted from Holm et al. (1977) and Steel et al. (1983).

Plant Type

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Grass / sedge
Seed propagated


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S. verticillata is a native of the Old World but has been introduced into North and South America. The extent of its natural range in Europe and Asia is uncertain. Bor (1979) indicates that it is widely distributed in the Old World Tropics and introduced into America, whereas PIER (2008) indicates it is native to Europe only, and USDA-ARS (2012) states its origin as palaeotropical and lists countries in North Africa and temperate Asia as part of the native range. Wagner et al. (1999) state that its native range is Europe but that it is widely naturalized.

The diploid form corresponding to S. adhaerens has a generally tropical distribution, while the tetraploid S. verticillata s.s. has a more temperate distribution. Thus in Israel, the diploid tropical form is common and the tetraploid form rare, while in the USA, the temperate tetraploid S. verticillata is present in all mainland states except seven south-eastern states, whereas the tropical diploid S. adhaerens is almost restricted to the most southern states (USDA-NRCS, 2008). The form without retrorse barbs, var. ambigua occurs sporadically throughout the range of S. verticillata s.s.

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


ArmeniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
AzerbaijanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
BahrainWidespreadChaudhary et al., 1981
ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Nei MengguPresentMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
-TibetPresentKaul, 1986
-YunnanPresentMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
Georgia (Republic of)PresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
IndiaPresentHolm et al., 1979
-AssamPresentIntroducedShukla, 1996
-BiharPresentIntroducedShukla, 1996
-HaryanaPresentIntroducedRathi and Panwar, 1993
-Jammu and KashmirPresentIntroducedKaul, 1986
-Madhya PradeshPresentIntroducedShukla, 1996
-MaharashtraPresentIntroducedGandhe and Kanchanganga, 1999
-MeghalayaPresentIntroducedShukla, 1996
-RajasthanPresentIntroducedJain et al., 1981
-SikkimLocalisedIntroduced Not invasive Noltie, 2000
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedShukla, 1996
-Uttar PradeshPresentIntroducedAlam & Khan, 1975
-West BengalPresentIntroducedShukla, 1996
IndonesiaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2008
-JavaPresentMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
-Nusa TenggaraPresentMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
-SulawesiPresentMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
IranPresentTselev, 1983
IraqPresentHolm et al., 1979
IsraelWidespreadNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979S.adhaerens (common) and S. verticillata s.s.(rare)
JapanPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
KazakhstanPresentUSDA-ARS, 2012
LebanonWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
OmanWidespreadChaudhary et al., 1981
PakistanPresentCope, 1982
PhilippinesPresentMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
Saudi ArabiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; Chaudhary et al., 1981
Sri LankaPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979
TaiwanPresentMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
ThailandPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979
Turkey-in-AsiaWidespread Invasive Holm et al., 1979
TurkmenistanPresentUSDA-ARS, 2012
UzbekistanPresentUSDA-ARS, 2012
YemenWidespread Invasive Al-Kathiri, 1994


AlgeriaPresentUSDA-ARS, 2012
AngolaPresentHolm et al., 1979
BotswanaPresentClayton, 1989
Burkina FasoPresentClayton, 1972
CameroonPresentMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
Cape VerdePresentLima and Duclos, 2001
EgyptPresentHolm et al., 1979
Equatorial GuineaPresentMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008Only as S. adhaerens
EthiopiaPresentHolm et al., 1979
GambiaPresentClayton, 1972
GhanaPresentClayton, 1972
KenyaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
LesothoPresentWells et al., 1986
LibyaPresentFaruqi et al., 1987; USDA-ARS, 2012
MalawiPresentClayton, 1989
MaliPresentClayton, 1972
MauritaniaPresentClayton, 1972
MauritiusPresentHolm et al., 1979
MoroccoPresentHolm et al., 1989
MozambiquePresentClayton, 1989
NamibiaPresentWells et al., 1986
NigerPresentClayton, 1972
NigeriaPresentHolm et al., 1979
SenegalPresentClayton, 1972
South AfricaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
-Canary IslandsPresentSiverio et al., 2011
SudanPresentHolm et al., 1979
SwazilandPresentWells et al., 1986
TanzaniaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
TunisiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
UgandaPresentHolm et al., 1979
ZambiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; Clayton, 1989
ZimbabwePresentHolm et al., 1979; Clayton, 1989

North America

BermudaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
CanadaPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979S. verticillata s.s.only
-British ColumbiaLocalisedIntroducedSteel et al., 1983S. verticillata s.s.only
-ManitobaLocalisedIntroducedSteel et al., 1983S. verticillata s.s.only
-Northwest TerritoriesPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2008
-Nova ScotiaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
-OntarioPresentIntroducedSteel et al., 1983S. verticillata s.s.only
-QuebecPresentIntroducedSteel et al., 1983S. verticillata s.s.only
MexicoPresentIntroducedHafliger and Scholtz, 1980
USAPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979
-AlabamaPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. adhaerens only
-ArizonaPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. adhaerens and S. verticillata s.s.
-ArkansasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2008S. verticillata s.s.only
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-ColoradoPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-ConnecticutPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-DelawarePresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-FloridaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2008S. adhaerens only
-HawaiiWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979
-IdahoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2008S. verticillata s.s.only
-IllinoisPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-IndianaPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-IowaPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-KentuckyPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-LouisianaPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951
-MainePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2008S. verticillata s.s.only
-MarylandPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-MassachusettsPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-MichiganPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-MinnesotaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2008S. verticillata s.s.only
-MississippiPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. adhaerens only
-MontanaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2008S. verticillata s.s.only
-NebraskaPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-New HampshirePresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-New JerseyPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-New MexicoPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. adhaerens and S. verticillata s.s.
-New YorkPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2008S. verticillata s.s.only
-North DakotaPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-OhioPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-OklahomaPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-OregonPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2008S. adhaerens and S. verticillata s.s
-PennsylvaniaPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. adhaerens and S. verticillata s.s
-Rhode IslandPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-South CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2008S. verticillata s.s.only
-South DakotaPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-TennesseePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2008S. verticillata s.s.only
-TexasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2008S. adhaerens and S. verticillata s.s
-UtahPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-VermontPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-VirginiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2008S. verticillata s.s.only
-WashingtonPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2008S. verticillata s.s.only
-West VirginiaPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-WisconsinPresentIntroducedHitchcock, 1951S. verticillata s.s.only
-WyomingPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2008S. verticillata s.s.only

Central America and Caribbean

BahamasPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008S. adhaerens
CubaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
GuatemalaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
Netherlands AntillesPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979
BrazilPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-BahiaPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-CearaPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-Espirito SantoPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-GoiasPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-MaranhaoPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-Minas GeraisPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-ParaPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-ParaibaPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-ParanaPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-PernambucoPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-PiauiPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-Rio de JaneiroPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-Rio Grande do SulPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-Santa CatarinaPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-Sao PauloPresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
-SergipePresentIntroducedLorenzi, 1982
ChilePresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979
EcuadorPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
PeruWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979
UruguayPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008


AlbaniaPresentNativeClayton, 1980
AustriaPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979
BelarusPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
BelgiumPresentIntroducedClayton, 1980
BulgariaPresentClayton, 1980
CroatiaPresentUSDA-ARS, 2012
CyprusPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
Czech RepublicPresentLepsí and Lepsí, 2012
Czechoslovakia (former)PresentClayton, 1980
DenmarkPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
FinlandPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
FrancePresentNativeHolm et al., 1979
-CorsicaPresentClayton, 1980
GermanyPresentNativeHolm et al., 1979; ISSG, 2012; USDA-ARS, 2012
GreecePresentNativeHolm et al., 1979
HungaryPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979
ItalyPresentNativeHolm et al., 1979
MacedoniaWidespreadNative Invasive
MoldovaPresentUSDA-ARS, 2012
NetherlandsPresentIntroducedClayton, 1980
PolandPresentClayton, 1980
PortugalPresentNativeClayton, 1980
-AzoresPresentNativeClayton, 1980
RomaniaPresentNativeClayton, 1980
Russian FederationPresentClayton, 1980
-Central RussiaPresentIntroducedRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2008
-Northern RussiaPresentIntroducedRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2008
-Southern RussiaPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2008
SpainWidespreadNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
-Balearic IslandsPresentClayton, 1980
SwitzerlandPresentClayton, 1980
UKPresentSell and Murrell, 1996
UkrainePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
Yugoslavia (former)PresentNativeClayton, 1980


AustraliaPresentIntroduced Invasive Auld and Medd, 1987
-New South WalesPresentIntroducedAuld and Medd, 1987
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedAuld and Medd, 1987; PIER, 2008
-South AustraliaPresentIntroducedAuld and Medd, 1987
-VictoriaPresentIntroducedAuld and Medd, 1987
French PolynesiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-MarquesasPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008
GuamPresentIntroducedPIER, 2008
Johnston IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008
KiribatiPresentIntroducedPIER, 2008
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008
Midway IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008
New ZealandPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979
Norfolk IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008
Pitcairn IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008
Wake IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008

History of Introduction and Spread

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S. verticillata is believed to have been introduced to both North and South America as early as 1821 (Steel et al., 1983). In the USA, the diploid form has a much more limited distribution, in the southern states only, but whether this is attributable to a later introduction, or to its climatic limitation, is not clear.

Risk of Introduction

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There must now be relatively few territories in which S. verticillata does not already occur. The risk of introduction into such areas must be high, owing to the ready distribution as seed, whether as a contaminant in crop seed or crop products, or clinging to clothing, hides, skins or bags.


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S. verticillata is a plant of disturbed areas, especially in annual and perennial crops, but also along roadsides and in waste places over a wide ecological range between northern and southern temperate areas including the sub-tropics and tropics, where it also occurs at high altitude, e.g. in East Africa. It is a species mainly of disturbed ground and is not reported as a problem in natural vegetation. While it has been reported to prefer shady damp sites, it is rarely found in wetlands (PIER, 2008).

In Hawaii, Wagner et al. (1999) report that it is "naturalized and common in dry, disturbed areas, including coastal sites, along roadsides, urban areas, agricultural land, and kiawe forest, 0-820 m."


Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Principal habitat Natural
Rail / roadsides Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Natural grasslands Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Riverbanks Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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In addition to the crops listed, S. verticillata can occur in almost any annual or perennial crop in the tropics and sub-tropics.

Biology and Ecology

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Several studies confirm that the tropical S. adhaerens is diploid (2n=18) while the temperate S. verticillata s.s. is usually tetraploid (2n=36) (Danin and Scholtz, 1997; Benabdelmouna et al., 2001b). Benabdelmouna et al. (2001a,b) also show that S. adhaerens has genome B while the tetraploid S. verticillata s.s. has genomes A (as in S. viridis) and B. In addition, S. verticillata has also been reported to be hexaploid (2n=54) (Bala and Sachdeva, 1990), though S. verticillata var. ambigua is tetraploid. Haroun (1997) reported 2n=18 for Egyptian material.

Missouri Botanical Garden (2008) includes long lists of forms, varieties and subspecies for both S. verticillata and S. adhaerens, indicating great genetic variation. Dekker (2003) reports low intrapopulation genetic diversity and huge genetic diversity between populations compared to similar plant species.

Reproductive Biology

S. verticillata is a self pollinated annual grass, reproducing solely by seed, and forming long-lived, heterogeneous seed pools in the soil. The seeds are dormant when shed but lose this dormancy over a period of about 7 months (Kohout and Loudova, 1981). Temperatures of 25-35°C are most favourable for germination (minimum 15°C, maximum 40°C), which occurs equally in light and dark (Vasconcelos et al., 1984), or may be promoted to some extent in light (Salimi and Termeh, 2002). Viability in the soil decreases after 18 months (Vasconcelos et al., 1984), declining to 20% viability after 3 years (Uremus and Uygur, 2002) and 2% after 7 years (Uremus and Uygur, 2005). In temperate areas, germination occurs early in the summer as temperatures become suitable. There is no evidence for sensitivity to day-length.

Physiology and Phenology

S. verticillata is an annual grass with a C4 physiology. 

Environmental Requirements

S. verticillata has a very wide range, both native and introduced, although it is generally considered to be more of a temperate species than the closely related, and often confused, S. adhaerens, which is considered to have more of a tropical climatic tolerance. However, a study of their distribution shows that both are present in tropical, sub-tropical and temperate areas, thus any distinction in environmental requirements are variable. However, it is less well adapted to shade than related species of Setaria and is normally found in full sunlight. S. verticillata is adapted to a wide range of soil types of low and high fertility, ranging from pH 6.1 to pH 8.0. It thrives under irrigated conditions but does not infest flooded rice.


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Am - Tropical monsoon climate Tolerated 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])
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)
Ds - Continental climate with dry summer Tolerated Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
55 45

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 10 30
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 35
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 0


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall5003000mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • impeded

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • shallow

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Claviceps fusiformis Pathogen
Sclerospora graminicola Pathogen
Spathosternum prasiniferum
Trichodorus mirzai Parasite

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Although the seeds eventually separate from the inflorescence, dispersal is very often assisted by the complete inflorescence being carried on animal fur, or even on hairy insects such as the cetoniid beetle Trichius fasciatus, (Vigni and Melati, 1999). Due to the retrorsely barbed bristles on the fruit, it is also easily attached to clothing including socks and trousers, and thus often brought into gardens by accident. It is thus feasible that the movement of livestock may lead to local introduction with seeds attached to hair, or even via traded wool.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Animal production Yes Yes
Crop production Yes Yes
Disturbance Yes
Forage Yes Yes
Harvesting fur, wool or hairPossibly Yes Yes
Seed trade Yes Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Clothing, footwear and possessions Yes Yes
Containers and packaging - non-wood Yes Yes
Hides, trophies and feathers Yes Yes
LivestockAttached to fur/wool Yes

Impact Summary

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Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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Holm et al. (1979) record S. verticillata as a serious or principal weed in Hawaii, Israel, Lebanon, Kenya, Peru, South Africa, Spain, Tanzania, Turkey, Tunisia and Zambia. It is one of the three most serious weeds of maize in Israel and Spain (Holm et al., 1977), and is among the most prevalent weeds of lucerne in Macedonia (Kostov and Pacaoski, 2006). It is present in more than 25% of cotton fields in parts of Turkey (Gözcü and Uludag, 2005), was the most abundant grass weed in sunflower in Botswana (Abdullahi, 2004), and affects a wide range of crops in Yemen (Al-Kathiri, 1994). It is especially troublesome in high altitude wheat crops in eastern Africa (Holm et al., 1977). It causes significant damage to maize crops and can displace native grasses (Dekker, 2003).

As well as competing with a very wide range of tropical and temperate crops, it can cause difficulties during harvesting when the inflorescences become entangled with themselves and with the crop. It is classed by PIER (2008) as ‘invasive’ in many of the Pacific Islands and Pacific Rim countries including Australia and New Zealand.

S. verticillata can act as an alternative host for the nematodes Meloidogyne spp. and Pratylenchus pratensis, and for the viruses; Maize mosaic virus, Maize streak virus, Wheat spot mosaic virus, Barley stripe mosaic virus, Cereal chlorotic mottle virus and Wheat streak mosaic virus (Holm et al., 1977).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Pest and disease transmission
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally


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S. verticillata has not been cultivated for human use but Austin (2006) reports archaeological evidence for it being gathered for human food in the past. In South Africa the seeds of S. verticillata are used to produce malt for beer. In Nambia, the Topnaar people harvest S. verticillata seeds and use them in making porridge (ISSG, 2012).

In the younger, vegetative stages, S. verticillata can provide palatable and nutritious forage for livestock. Holm et al. (1977) note that it may become dominant in the early stages of fallow in East Africa and provide valuable grazing before it is suppressed by perennial grasses.

Bor (1979) records that the dried inflorescences of S. verticillata have been used as a layer on top of stored grains to protect them from rats.

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Forage

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Typical S. verticillata is distinguished from all other common weedy species of Setaria (S. pumila, S. viridis) by its retrorsely barbed bristles resulting in ‘sticky’ inflorescence, while var. ambigua may still be distinguished from S. viridis by the hispid rather than hairy rachis of the spikelet.

Prevention and Control

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Cultural Control

As an annual weed, S. verticillata is readily controlled by most conventional tillage implements. In Greece, Vasilakoglou et al. (2006) report successful suppression of S. verticillata by cover crop mulches of barley and rye. In this context, Dhima et al. (2006) report that it is particularly sensitive to allelopathic extracts from barley, rye and triticale.

Chemical Control

S. verticillata is susceptible to most of the herbicides used for control of annual grasses, including chlorthal dimethyl, linuron, metobromuron, prometryn, metoxuron, pendimethalin, trifluralin, vernolate, EPTC, sethoxydim, fenoxaprop, diclofop, haloxyfop, fluazifop and glyphosate. Performance of rimsulfuron and nicosulfuron is improved by the use of adjuvants (James and Rahman, 1994). It is somewhat tolerant of atrazine and simazine and long term use of these compounds has resulted in a build up of the weed in some European countries, for example, Portugal (Monteiro and Rocha, 1992), France (Pichot, 1991), Switzerland (Ammon, 1986) and Germany (Engel, 1973), while more fully triazine-resistant populations have developed in Spain (Prado et al., 1992, 2004). These populations are presumed to mostly be of the tetraploid form, but Prado et al. (2000) indicate that the natural resistance to atrazine in S. adhaerens is equivalent to that of S. verticillata. Resistance to trifluralin has also been reported in Turkey (Demirci and Nemli, 1998).

In Romania, Roibu et al. (2000) found acetochlor, metolachlor and isoxaflutole, each + atrazine, and acetochlor + glyphosate, controlled S. verticillata in maize, while in Greece, Vasilakoglou and Eleftoerohorinos (2003) concluded that flufenacet, s-metolachlor, and dimethenamid were suitable alternatives to acetochlor, alachlor, and metolachlor for this purpose. Recent work in Macedonia reports selective control by imazamox in lucerne/alfalfa (Kostov and Pacanoski, 2006).

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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The distribution of the two main biotypes, diploid and tetraploid, could be of value, in conjunction with studies to determine any significant differences in their response to environmental conditions and to control methods, including their response to herbicides and tendency to acquire herbicide resistance.


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10/03/2008 Updated by:

Chris Parker, Consultant, UK

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