Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Stenotaphrum secundatum
(buffalo grass)



Stenotaphrum secundatum (buffalo grass)


  • Last modified
  • 15 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Stenotaphrum secundatum
  • Preferred Common Name
  • buffalo grass
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • S. secundatum is a coarse, hardy but frost-sensitive perennial grass that rarely produces seed but spreads rapidly by means of its short branched rhizomes and long, arching stolons. It can produce a dense sward...

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Stenotaphrum secundatum (buffalograss); young plant with young inflorescences.
TitleYoung plant
CaptionStenotaphrum secundatum (buffalograss); young plant with young inflorescences.
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2014
Stenotaphrum secundatum (buffalograss); young plant with young inflorescences.
Young plantStenotaphrum secundatum (buffalograss); young plant with young inflorescences.©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2014
Stenotaphrum secundatum (buffalograss); young shoots and emerging leaves.
TitleYoung shoots
CaptionStenotaphrum secundatum (buffalograss); young shoots and emerging leaves.
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2014
Stenotaphrum secundatum (buffalograss); young shoots and emerging leaves.
Young shootsStenotaphrum secundatum (buffalograss); young shoots and emerging leaves.©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2014
Stenotaphrum secundatum (buffalograss); Ligule and collar zone.
TitleLigule and collar
CaptionStenotaphrum secundatum (buffalograss); Ligule and collar zone.
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2014
Stenotaphrum secundatum (buffalograss); Ligule and collar zone.
Ligule and collarStenotaphrum secundatum (buffalograss); Ligule and collar zone.©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2014
Stenotaphrum secundatum (buffalograss); young, expanding inflorescences.
CaptionStenotaphrum secundatum (buffalograss); young, expanding inflorescences.
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2014
Stenotaphrum secundatum (buffalograss); young, expanding inflorescences.
InflorescencesStenotaphrum secundatum (buffalograss); young, expanding inflorescences.©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2014


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Stenotaphrum secundatum (Walt.) Kuntze

Preferred Common Name

  • buffalo grass

Other Scientific Names

  • Ischaemum secundatum Walter
  • Panicum dimidiatum L.
  • Rottboellia dimidiata (L.) L. f.
  • Rottboellia dimidiata Thunb.
  • Rottboellia stolonifera Poir.
  • Rottboellia tripsacoides Lam.
  • Stenotaphrum americanum Schrank
  • Stenotaphrum americanum SCHRANK
  • Stenotaphrum dimidiatum (L.) BRONGN.
  • Stenotaphrum dimidiatum var. americanum (Schrank) Hack.
  • Stenotaphrum dimidiatum var. secundatum (Walter) Domin
  • Stenotaphrum glabrum Trin.
  • Stenotaphrum glabrum TRIN.
  • Stenotaphrum glabrum var. americanum (Schrank) Döll
  • Stenotaphrum glabrum var. glabrum Trin.
  • Stenotaphrum glabrum var. multiflorum Döll
  • Stenotaphrum sarmentosum Nees
  • Stenotaphrum secundatum var. secundatum (Walter) Kuntze

International Common Names

  • English: pembagrass; ramsammygrass; St. Augustine grass; St. Augustinegrass
  • Spanish: yerba de San Agustin
  • French: chiendent de boeuf
  • Portuguese: grama-de-folha-larga

Local Common Names

  • : carpet grass; crab grass; sheep grass; wire grass
  • : falso-kikuyu; grama americana; grama de costa; grama San Augustin; gramón; lastón; pasto San Augustín
  • Argentina: gramillon; pasta colchon
  • Brazil: grama da praia; grama-de-jardim; grama-inglesa; grama-italiana
  • Caribbean: cañamazo; gros chiendent
  • France: chiendent de boeuf
  • Germany: Amerikanisches Hohlspelzengras
  • Jamaica: Dutch grass; pimento grass
  • Portugal: erva-de-santo-agostinho
  • South Africa: kweekgras
  • USA/Hawaii: maniene

EPPO code

  • STPSE (Stenotaphrum secundatum)

Summary of Invasiveness

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S. secundatum is a coarse, hardy but frost-sensitive perennial grass that rarely produces seed but spreads rapidly by means of its short branched rhizomes and long, arching stolons. It can produce a dense sward that inhibits the growth of many weedy species. S. secundatum is native to the Caribbean, South America, parts of North America and parts of Africa; it has been introduced to Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Pacific islands, some US states and other parts of Africa. S. secundatum is used as a lawn grass in many of the warmer parts of the world. It can invade roadsides, gardens and lawns, grassland, river banks, swamps, coastal areas and disturbed sites, and is considered an environmental weed in Australia and New Zealand (Sauer, 1972; Howell, 2008). The Cape deme (morphological subgroup) of S. secundatum has been a particularly successful invasive (Sauer, 1972).

Taxonomic Tree

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

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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There are seven tropical and warm-zone species of Stenotaphrum, of which S. secundatum is the best known (Mabberley, 1991).

Sauer (1972) revised the genus and described the seven species in detail, along with their distribution and history. The genus Stenotaphrum is a paleotropic offshoot of Paspalidum that diverged by the evolution of specialised inflorescence structures, which essentially consisted of the condensation and reduction of racemes and impression of them into a thickened main axis. Sauer suggested that the modifications of the inflorescence allowed for short-distance dispersal of the seed by ocean currents.

There are several morphologically distinct subgroups of S. secundatum, termed ‘demes’ by Sauer (1972). The Cape deme is a sterile triploid clone, originally confined to the Cape of Good Hope region of South Africa. The Natal-Plata deme was originally collected from Natal, Mauritius, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but is now much more widespread (Sauer, 1972).

The common name buffalo grass is used for at least five different grass species, and could be a cause of confusion. Buffalograss (one word) is the common name of Panicum maximum (cf. Guinea grass).


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Modified from Clayton et al. (2013):

Habit: perennial; mat forming. Stolons present. Basal innovations flabellate (fan-shaped). Culms prostrate; 10-30 cm long. Leaf-sheaths keeled. Ligule a fringe of hairs. Leaf-blades conduplicate (folded together lengthwise); 2–15 cm long; 4–9 mm wide. Leaf-blade apex obtuse.

Inflorescence composed of racemes; deciduous as a whole. Racemes borne along a central axis; in a unilateral false spike; sunken; unilateral; 0.5–1 cm long; bearing few fertile spikelets; bearing 1–3 fertile spikelets on each. Central inflorescence axis 2–10 cm long; corky; tough; tip subulate. Rhachis flattened; terminating in a barren extension; extension subulate. Spikelet packing abaxial. Spikelets sunken (in axis); solitary. Fertile spikelets sessile, comprising 1 basal sterile florets; 1 fertile florets; without rhachilla extension. Spikelets oblong; dorsally compressed; 5 mm long; falling entire; deciduous with accessory branch structures.

Glumes dissimilar; reaching apex of florets; thinner than fertile lemma. Lower glume ovate; 0.1–0.3 length of upper glume; 0.1–0.3 length of spikelet; membranous; pallid; without keels. Lower glume apex obtuse. Upper glume ovate; membranous; without keels; 7–9 -veined. Upper glume apex acute.

Florets: basal sterile florets male; with palea. Lemma of lower sterile floret ovate; 1 length of spikelet; coriaceous; 7–9 -veined; without grooves; acute. Fertile lemma lanceolate; 4.5 mm long; chartaceous; without keel; 5-veined. Lemma margins flat. Lemma apex acute. Palea chartaceous (papery).

The Cape deme of S. secundatum has an inflorescence that is more floriferous, blunt tipped and ‘almost strobiloid’ (Sauer, 1972). Each spikelet is about 2 mm broad (as opposed to the usual 1.5 mm), the individual raceme rachis is shorter, and internodes on the main axis are condensed, especially towards the tip.

Plant Type

Top of page Grass / sedge
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated


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S. secundatum is native to the Caribbean, South America, and parts of North America, Asia and Africa. It has been introduced to Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Pacific islands (Samoa, the Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Hawaii and Midway), some US states and parts of Africa.

As long as there have been records, S. secundatum has ranged widely as a coastal pioneer along the Atlantic coasts of Africa and the Americas (Sauer, 1972). Before 1800 it was recorded as native in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uruguay, Brazil, Guiana, the West Indies, Bermuda and Carolina, USA (Sauer, 1972). It was also found in Hawaii before 1800.

Originally native to the Cape of Good Hope region of South Africa, the Cape deme (morphological subgroup) has been very widely distributed and naturalised in many of the warmer parts of the world as a lawn grass and a fodder species. The Natal-Plata deme, originally native to Natal, Mauritius, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, is now found in tropical and temperate regions alongside the native races in South America, France, Portugal, Spain, around the Mediterranean and on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, Madeira and the Canaries.

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


ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Hong KongPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive eFloras, 2013
IndiaUnconfirmed recordBiodiversity India, 2013
-KeralaPresentNativeTropical Forages, 2013
JapanPresentNativeMito and Uesugi, 2004
SingaporePresentIntroduced Invasive Sauer, 1972Roadside weed in 1950
Sri LankaPresentNativeTropical Forages, 2013


CameroonPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
ChadPresentIntroducedBrundu and Camarda, 2013Cultivated - multipurpose
CongoPresentIntroducedSauer, 1972
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentIntroducedPauwels, 2013Form variegatum, Gombe, Kinshasa
Côte d'IvoirePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
EgyptPresentIntroducedSauer, 1972
GhanaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
KenyaPresentIntroducedSauer, 1972Rift Valley
LiberiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
MauritiusPresent, few occurrencesIntroducedSauer, 1972Not collected recently
MoroccoPresentIntroducedSauer, 1972
MozambiquePresentIntroducedSauer, 1972Imported as cover crop for coconut plantations
NigeriaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
Saint HelenaPresentIntroducedSauer, 1972
SenegalPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
Sierra LeonePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2013
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedSauer, 1972Mashonaland

North America

BermudaPresentNativeSauer, 1972
MexicoPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
-AlabamaUnconfirmed recordCAB Abstracts; USDA-NRCS, 2013
-CaliforniaUnconfirmed recordCAB Abstracts; USDA-NRCS, 2013
-FloridaPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2013
-LouisianaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2013
-MississippiPresentNativeUSDA-NRCS, 2013
-MissouriPresentNativeUSDA-NRCS, 2013
-New MexicoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2013
-North CarolinaPresentNativeUSDA-NRCS, 2013
-OklahomaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2013
-South CarolinaUnconfirmed recordCAB Abstracts; USDA-NRCS, 2013
-TennesseePresentIntroducedTropical Forages, 2013
-TexasPresentCAB Abstracts; USDA-NRCS, 2013
-VirginiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2013

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentNative
BahamasPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
BelizePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
Cayman IslandsPresentNativeSauer, 1972
Costa RicaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
CubaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
DominicaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
Dominican RepublicPresentNativeSauer, 1972
GuadeloupePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
GuatemalaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
HaitiPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
HondurasPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
JamaicaPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001; USDA-ARS, 2013
MartiniquePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
NicaraguaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
PanamaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
Puerto RicoPresentNativeUSDA-NRCS, 2013
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentNative
Saint LuciaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
United States Virgin IslandsPresentNativeUSDA-NRCS, 2013

South America

ArgentinaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013North-eastern parts
BoliviaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
BrazilPresentNativeCAB Abstracts; USDA-ARS, 2013Eastern parts
ChilePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
ColombiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
EcuadorPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
French GuianaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
GuyanaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
ParaguayPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
PeruPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
SurinamePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
UruguayPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
VenezuelaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013Northern parts


CyprusPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2013
FrancePresent, few occurrencesIntroducedSauer, 1972Marsh at the head of the Bay of Biscay in 1861
-CorsicaPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2013
ItalyPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2013
PortugalPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2013
-AzoresPresentNativeDAISIE, 2013
-MadeiraPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2013
SpainPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2013
-Balearic IslandsPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2013


American SamoaPresentPIER, 2013Tutuila Island
AustraliaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive CAB Abstracts; Weeds of Australia, 2013
-Lord Howe Is.PresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2013
-New South WalesWidespreadIntroduced Invasive CAB Abstracts; Weeds of Australia, 2013Eastern areas
-QueenslandWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Weeds of Australia, 2013Eastern areas
-South AustraliaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Weeds of Australia, 2013Southern areas
-TasmaniaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Weeds of Australia, 2013
-VictoriaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Weeds of Australia, 2013
-Western AustraliaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Weeds of Australia, 2013Southern and south-western areas
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2013Raratonga
FijiPresentIntroduced Invasive
French PolynesiaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2013
GuamWidespreadIntroducedPIER, 2013
KiribatiPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2013
Marshall IslandsWidespreadIntroducedPIER, 2013
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2013
New ZealandWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Edgar and Connor, 2010Coastal areas in the north
-Kermadec IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2013
Norfolk IslandWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Weeds of Australia, 2013A threat to native species: common on coastal cliffs and swards
PalauPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2013
SamoaPresentNativePIER, 2013
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2013
TongaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2013
VanuatuPresentIntroducedPIER, 2013
Wallis and Futuna IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2013cultivated

History of Introduction and Spread

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Sauer (1972) documented the history of the spread of the species from its initial distribution on both sides of the tropical and sub-tropical Atlantic to many parts of the world.

A morphologically distinct subgroup of S. secundatum (a sterile triploid clone, termed a ‘deme’ by Sauer), originally confined to the Cape of Good Hope region of South Africa, has become particularly widespread, transported by humans primarily as a lawn grass. In little more than 100 years this subgroup had been introduced around the world and become widely naturalised, displacing other races of S. secundatum and invading new territory.

In Australia S. secundatum was first found near Sydney and somewhere in the northwest by the mid-19th century. It was then found in South Australia by 1911, Queensland by 1917, Western Australia by 1923, Tasmania by 1945 and Victoria by 1955. Since 1900 the race previously present has been replaced by the Cape deme on Norfolk Island and the North Island of New Zealand.

Risk of Introduction

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In many countries, S. secundatum has been introduced as a useful salt-tolerant lawn grass, but it has since spread as stolon material in garden waste or by natural spread to many coastal waste places, sand dunes and along roadsides. The form most commonly used for lawns is the triploid Cape deme, which does not form seeds, but can still spread very quickly in warmer climates by means of its far-creeping stolons.


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In its native environment, S. secundatum is found in moist swampy soils, mostly near the coast. Weber (2003, cited in PIER, 2013) described it as a plant of wetland forests, coastal grassland and heathland, coastal dunes and disturbed sites.

In Australia, S. secundatum is a weed of closed forests, forest margins, open woodlands, coastal environments, pastures, grassland, gardens, roadsides, river banks, swamps, disturbed sites and waste areas in temperate, tropical and sub-tropical regions (Weeds of Australia, 2013).

S. secundatum is frost tolerant and withstands salt spray.

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details
Coastal areas Present, no further details
Coastal dunes Present, no further details
Irrigation channels Present, no further details

Biology and Ecology

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Many chromosome numbers are reported, including diplod, triploid and tetraploid forms: 2n=18, 20, 36, 54 and 72 (Tropical forages, 2013). In North America, 70% of Texan types of S. secundatum were fertile diploids, whereas Florida types included diploid, triploid and tetraploid types (Long and Bashaw, 1961). The progeny of diploid seedlings showed wide phenotypic variation whereas tetraploids approached 100% sterility and triploids were highly sterile.

Reproductive biology

Although the diploid forms of S. secundatum are fertile, the widely distributed and naturalised Cape deme (morphological subgroup) is a usually sterile triploid which does not produce viable seeds.

Reports on the seed production of S. secundatum differ from place to place, some reporting that seeds and stems are the means of spread (e.g. Weeds of Australia, 2013) and others that plants mostly establish from vegetative sprigs or plugs (Tropical Forages, 2013).

Physiology and phenology

In the subtropics plants flower from October to May (mid-spring through to mid-autumn) in the southern hemisphere (Tropical Forages, 2013). S. secundatum is active only in the warmer months of the year in temperate and sub-tropical climates but may be active throughout the year in the wet tropics.


S. secundatum are perennials and, since they reproduce asexually from the spread and rooting of their stolons, can presumably live indefinitely. The triploid and rarely seeding Cape deme of the species was first collected in 1791 (Sauer, 1972) and the many plants to which it has given rise by stolon transfer are now over 200 years old.


S. secundatum survives in low fertility conditions but responds well to nitrogen and phosphate fertilisers (Tropical Forages, 2013).


S. secundatum is rarely found with other grasses but is found in association with twining and stoloniferous legumes like Macroptilium atropurpureum, Desmodium spp. and Desmanthus spp. (Tropical Forages, 2013).

Environmental requirements

S. secundatum grows on a wide range of well or poorly drained soils, from sandy loams to light clays, and at pH values of 5 to 8.5. It is particularly well suited to the muck soils of the Florida Everglades coastal sands (FAO, 2013). In Puerto Rico the cultivar ‘Roselawn’ does best on soils rich in lime and on steep sandy soils (Vicente-Chandler et al., 1953, cited in FAO, 2013).

S. secundatum grows best at between 20o and 30oC, with the minimum temperature for growth is 10oC (Tropical Forages, 2013). Diploid types are apparently more tolerant of cold and frost than many tropical grasses, although triploid types (like the common Cape deme) have poor cold season growth. Survival under frosted winter conditions seems to depend on cultivar.

S. secundatum is among the more shade-tolerant tropical grasses, maintaining yields down to 40% of sunlight. It is tolerant of salinity to 15 dS per cm. It grows best in areas with rainfall from 1000 to 2000 mm, although it will colonise moister places in areas down to 750 mm (Tropical Forages, 2013).


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Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Tropical Forages (2013) listed the southern chinch bug (Blissus insularis) in Florida and the hairy chinch bug (B. leucopterus) in Hawaii as natural enemies of S. secundatum in the USA. Webworm (Hyphantria cunea) and armyworm (Mythimna spp. or Spodoptera spp.) are also natural enemies, and are encouraged by high levels of nitrogenous fertilisers. S. secundatum is also susceptible to a range of nematodes, including root knot nematode (Meloidogyne spp.), reniform nematode (Rotylenchulus reniformis) and cyst nematode (Heterodera leuceilyma).
Fungal diseases include brown patch in lawns (Rhizoctonia solani), grey leaf spot (Pyricularia grisea), dollar spot (Sclerotinia-like fungi), and flower smut (Ustilago cynodontis). These diseases tend to be a greater problem in turf grasses than in grazed or naturalised swards. St Augustine decline (SAD) is a mosaic disease caused by a Panicum mosaic virus that affects S. secundatum.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural dispersal (non-biotic)

Sauer (1972) suggested that the inflorescences of almost all the species of Stenotaphrum show adaptations for dispersal of the seeds by ocean currents. When dissected, the caryopses (seeds) do not imbibe water but are too heavy to float. Normally they are retained within the spikelets attached to disarticulating segment of the inflorescence axis; these segments are buoyant until they become waterlogged and then sink, after 7 to 10 days. Such flotation could account for local dispersal but not for transoceanic dispersal, unless such seed-bearing fragments become attached to floating debris (of artificial or natural materials), and thus carried further afield. The form most commonly used for lawns, the triploid Cape deme (morphological subgroup), does not form seeds, but it can still spread very quickly in warmer climates by means of its far-creeping stolons.

Accidental introduction

In many countries S. secundatum has been introduced as a useful salt-tolerant lawn grass, but has spread due to stolon material in garden waste or by natural spread to many coastal waste places, sand dunes and along roadsides.

Intentional introduction

S. secundatum has been deliberately introduced to numerous countries. This is particularly true for the Cape deme (Sauer, 1972), which has been deliberately taken from its source at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, to North America, Europe, the Mediterranean region and Australasia.

Impact Summary

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Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Economic Impact

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There is very little information on the negative impacts of S. secundatum. Dry matter production is only moderate (Mullen and Shelton, 1996), but S. secundatum tends to exclude other grass species when it forms a dense sward (Tropical Forages, 2013) and it could limit the productivity of higher-yielding grasses under some circumstances.

S. secundatum contains about 1% of oxalates in the dry matter but this does not make it toxic to livestock (Garcia-Rivera and Morris, 1955, cited in FAO, 2013). S. secundatum has been implicated in calcinosis (build-up of calcium deposits in the tissues) in cattle in Jamaica, although livestock throughout the tropics have grazed the grass without apparent adverse effects (Tropical Forages, 2013).

Environmental Impact

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S. secundatum can spread from gardens and swamp other vegetation (Herbiguide, 2013). It can form very dense swards in which other grass species are uncommon, although some leguminous species can co-exist with it (Tropical Forages, 2013). Stems can climb 1-2 m tall and smother small shrubs. Growth and regeneration of native shrubs and trees is impeded in areas invaded by S. secundatum. It is considered an environmental weed in the Australian states of Victoria, Western Australia, New South Wales, South Australia and south-eastern Queensland, although it is not considered noxious by any state legislation (Weeds of Australia, 2013).

Social Impact

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Prescott and Potter (2001) found that air-borne pollen of S. secundatum was an important allergen in Cape Province of South Africa. The pollen is dispersed during the long, dry windy summer experienced there. It has been labelled a ‘garden thug’ in Australia, as it can spread and swamp other vegetation (Herbiguide, 2013).

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
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Reduced amenity values
Impact mechanisms
  • Causes allergic responses
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - smothering
  • Induces hypersensitivity
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately


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S. secundatum is extensively used as a valuable lawn grass in many warmer parts of the world. In many countries it has been introduced as a useful salt-tolerant lawn grass, and it allows the growth of lawns or turf in areas near the sea where other lawn species do not flourish because of salinity, windy conditions or drought-prone sandy soils. Tropical Forages (2013) listed a number of cultivars of S. secundatum, mostly from the USA, that are used for turf grasses or forage. Busey and Augustin (1980) mentioned that ‘hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year to maintain St. Augustinegrass [S. secundatum]’ in home lawns and other turf areas.

S. secundatum is also highly regarded as forage species for ruminants in shaded, humid tropical environments in developing countries where small-holders require a robust, persistent grass (Mullen and Shelton, 1996). Its moderate nutritive value can be enhanced by combining the species with legumes such as Leucaena leucocephala, Arachis pintoi cv. Amarillo, Aeschynomene americana cv. Glenn and Desmodium spp. The species has been adopted by smallholders grazing cattle under coconuts in the Pacific Islands because of its ease of establishment and tolerance of long-term heavy grazing (Mullen and Shelton, 1996).

FAO (2013, quoting Vicente-Chandler et al., 1953) discussed the value of S. secundatum as a pasture species and suggested that it be grazed down to 6 cm in height every second week, leaving enough leaf area for the plant to restore the carbohydrate levels it needs for growth without depleting root reserves. The swards take time to recover if grazed too closely, and mature herbage quickly becomes unpalatable, although it is fairly palatable when young. As the plant matures, nitrogen concentration falls from 2.7% to 1.0%, crude protein digestibility falls from 53% to 31% and dry matter digestibility from 60% to 50% (Tropical Forages, 2013). According to FAO (2013), S. secundatum can be made into useful silage.

When established swards of S. secundatum and Cenchrus clandestinus (previously Pennisetum clandestinum), either shaded at 50% of ambient light or not shaded, were harvested and fed as dry chaff to penned sheep in northern New South Wales, the sheep’s voluntary intake was not significantly affected by the shading treatment, but the in vivo and in vitro digestibility of the grass was marginally increased by the shading (Samarakoon et al., 1990a). In further experiments, Samarakoon et al. (1990b) grew S. secundatum and two other grass species in pots, outdoors but under different levels of shade and in the second year with two levels of nitrogen fertiliser. The top yield of S. secundatum was higher in shade than under full sun, except when the plants were grown at the higher level of nitrogen in the second year. Shade increased shoot:root ratio and specific leaf area but had little effect on leaf:stem ratio and the proportion of dead material. Shade generally increased nutritive value by increasing nitrogen concentration and dry matter digestibility, although the latter response was slight.

S. secundatum is also used as a sand binder or for soil conservation groundcover under trees or near the sea (Mabberley, 1997; Tropical Forages, 2013).

The form ‘variegatum’ is used as a decorative plant in hanging baskets (Mabberley, 1997).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Forage


  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Land reclamation
  • Soil conservation


  • Ornamental

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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S. secundatum can be confused with other summer-active, fast growing, stoloniferous grasses like Cenchrus clandestinus (formerly Pennisetum clandestinum) or Axonopius spp.; however, S. secundatum is a very coarse grass, blue-green in colour, with characteristic broad, flattened seed heads with the spikelets embedded in the main axis.

Prevention and Control

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Physical/mechanical control

Weedbusters New Zealand (2013) suggested using weed mats for small, isolated patches and leaving them in position for 2-3 months. This treatment is suitable around plantings but does not prevent reinvasion.

Trailing stems at the edge of infestations (along footpaths or roadsides, for example) can be pulled out (PIER, 2013). Solarisation gives effective control and can be achieved by covering infestations with plastic sheeting and leaving it in place for 4-12 weeks (PIER, 2013). The establishment rate from stolons is not fast except in very warm climates (Aldous and Chivers, 2002).

Biological control

Biological control of S. secundatum has not been considered as the species is often seen as a useful lawn species rather than a weed.

Chemical control

S. secundatum is susceptible to many common broadleaf herbicides (Aldous and Chivers, 2002). Weedbusters New Zealand (2013) recommends using haloxyfop to control S. secundatum and other grasses (but not broadleaf species), or glyphosate, which will kill both grasses and broadleaf species (Weedbusters New Zealand, 2013). Weber (2003, cited in PIER, 2013) listed glyphosate, dalapon and 2,2-DPA as herbicides used to control of S. secundatum.


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Aldous DE; Chivers IH, 2002. Sports turf and amenity grasses: a manual for use and identification [ed. by Alldous, D. E.\Chivers, I. H.]. Collingwood, Australia: Landlinks Press, viii + 112 pp.

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FAO, 2013. Stenotaphrum secundatum (Walt.) Kuntze. Grassland species profiles.

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Mullen BF; Shelton HM, 1996. Stenotaphrum secundatum: a valuable forage species for shaded environments. Tropical Grasslands, 30(3):289-297.

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Prescott RA; Potter PC, 2001. Allergenicity and cross-reactivity of buffalo grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum). South African Medical Journal, 91(3):237-43.

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Samarakoona SP; Shelton HM; Wilson JR, 1990. Voluntary feed intake by sheep and digestibility of shaded Stenotaphrum secundatum and Pennisetum clandestinum herbage. The Journal of Agricultural Science, 114(2):143-150.

Samarakoona SP; Wilson JR; Shelton HM, 1990. Growth, morphology and nutritive quality of shaded Stenotaphrum secundatum, Axonopus compressus and Pennisetum clandestinum. The Journal of Agricultural Science, 114(2):161-169.

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Weeds of Australia, 2013. Weeds of Australia, Biosecurity Queensland Edition. Weeds of Australia, Biosecurity Queensland Edition.


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25/11/13 Original text by:

Ian Popay, consultant, New Zealand, with the support of Landcare Research.

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