Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)

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Pennisetum clandestinum
Hochst. ex Chiov., Poaceae
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Present on Pacific Islands?  yes

Primarily a threat at high elevations?  no

Risk assessment results: 

Reject, score: 12 (Go to the risk assessment (Australia))
High risk, score: 18 (Go to the risk assessment (Pacific))

Other Latin names:  Cenchrus clandestinus (Hochst. ex Chiov.) Morrone; Kikuyuochloa clandestina (Hochst. ex Chiov.) H. Scholz

Common name(s): [more details]

Chinese: pu di lang wei cao

English: kikuyo grass, kikuyu grass

French: kikuyu

Spanish: kikuyu, pasto africano

Habit:  grass

Description:  "A low, mat-forming, perennial grass; creeping extensively by stout rhizomes and long branched stolons; culms 30 to 120 cm, prostrate and rooting from the nodes, internodes short, profuse vertical leafy branches arise from the stolons and rhizomes; leaf sheaths overlapping, membranous to papery, pale to brown, hairless or hairy; ligule a hairy rim; blades narrow, spreading, blunt to pointed, 1.25 to 5 cm long, 3 to 4 mm wide, folded at first, later flat, hairless or hairy, the margins rough, the small white or tawny panicles are not borne at the top of the culms as in other grasses but are enclosed within short leaf sheaths at the top of short side shoots which resemble regular vegetative shoots, spikelets in clusters of two to four and nearly enclosed in the uppermost leaf sheath, terminal spikelet shortly stalked, the others stalkless, each spikelet partly or wholly surrounded by delicate bristles up to 15 in number that are unequal in length, inner bristles plumose, spikelets with two florets, slender, narrow, 1 to 2 cm long, whitish below, greenish above; the only parts of the flower visible are the stamens which appear as a mass of fine white threads attached to the leaves and consist of filaments, 2.5 cm or more long, with anthers at the tip; grain (caryopsis) oblong, brown, 1.5 to 2.5 mm long, the seeds can be found only by dissecting the leaf sheaths.  The species can be distinguished by its extensively creeping rhizomes and stolons which form a dense mat, its culms with overlapping leaf sheaths and by its flowers which, if present at all, appear on leafy, vegetative side shoots with only the stamens visible above the leaf sheaths"  (Holm et al., 1977; p. 362).

Description from GrassBase.

Habitat/ecology:  "A creeping, sod-forming grass that can spread rapidly to form vigorous pure stands.  It is well adapted to the humid tropic or subtropics, especially at higher elevations and in soils of high fertility.  It has long been associated with volcanic soils or with the red soils of the tropics and subtropics.  Although the grass grows best under moist, humid conditions, well-establlished plants can withstand a considerable amount of dry weather; however, they do not grow as rapidly during such periods of moisture stress" (Holm et al., 1977; pp. 362, 364).  "This rapidly growing, partially scrambling, rhizomatous plant is a favored, but overrated, rangeland grass. It is a serious pest in forests because, apart from shading out shrubs and herbs, it releases allelopathic substances which kill almost all other species in the vicinity (Sanchez and Davis 1969). It burns very slowly and generally retards fire.  "This strongly creeping grass can form swards over several hectares in area and is difficult to eradicate. Because shading does not stop its growth, it can grow up through hedges and bushes, eventually shading them to extinction. Where kikuyu grass grows in open scrubland or on forest margins the seedlings of native trees and shrubs have very little chance of establishment. Kikuyu grass creates a considerable fire hazard as the old stolons die and accumulate because of the new growth scrambling over the top" (Edgar & Connor, 2000; p. 574)

It is found on all major Hawaiian Islands from 500-2,000 m in dry and mesic habitats. It will also invade wet environments when the forest is disturbed" (Smith, 1985). In Hawai‘i, "naturalized in dry to mesic forest, open sites in wet forest, and pastures, 0-1,220 m.  Kikuyu grass is one of the most serious pest species threatening native vegetation; its smothering, thick, dense growth prevents virtually any new seedling establishment"  (Wagner et al., 1999; pp. 1578-1579). In New Caledonia, "cultivé à présent en pâturages et gazons mais peu commun" (MacKee, 1994; p. 61).

Propagation:  Rhizomes and stolons; wind-dispersed seeds (rarely). "It produces strong vigorous stolons and rhizomes which spread rapidly in a circular pattern from the parent plant, colonizing bare ground or encroaching on croplands, grasslands, forest, and waste areas.  Stolons root readily at the nodes.  The thick, white rhizomes spread through the soil to a depth of 30 to 40 cm or more, producing a tough, dense sod difficult to plow or to penetrate with tillage equipment.  Both rhizomes and tillers can survive considerable drying after tillage; however, severe desiccation will kill them.  The plant can withstand severe and repeated defoliation; hence, it is very resistant to overgrazing or mowing" (Holm et al., 1977; p. 364).

Native range:  Tropical eastern Africa (Holm et al., 1977; p. 362).

Presence:

Pacific
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Comments
Australia (Pacific offshore islands)
Lord Howe Island
Lord Howe Island introduced
Pickard, J. (1984) (p. 205)
Australia (Pacific offshore islands)
Lord Howe Island
Lord Howe Island introduced
invasive
Orchard, Anthony E., ed. (1994) (p. 22)
"Introduced and is commonly used as a pasture grass, and also in lawns". Vouchers cited: L.M. Bingley 30 (K, NSW), A.C. Beauglehole 5457 (CANB, MEL), A.C. Beauglehole 5979 (CANB)
Australia (Pacific offshore islands)
Norfolk Islands
Norfolk Island introduced
invasive
Ziesing, P. (1997) (pp. 32-33)
Australia (Pacific offshore islands)
Norfolk Islands
Norfolk Island introduced
invasive
Orchard, Anthony E., ed. (1994) (p. 12)
"Introduced and is commonly used as a pasture grass, and also in lawns". Vouchers cited: W.R. Sykes NI 55 (CHR), P. Ralston 5 (CHR)
Chile (offshore islands)
Rapa Nui (Easter) Island
Rapa Nui (Easter) Island (Isla de Pasqua) introduced
invasive
Meyer, Jean-Yves (2008) (p. 29)
French Polynesia
Marquesas Islands
Nuku Hiva (Nukahiva) Island   National Tropical Botanical Garden (U.S.A. Hawaii. Kalaheo.) (2004) (voucher ID: PTBG 42445)
Taxon name on voucher: Pennisetum clandestinum
French Polynesia
Society Islands
Tahiti Island introduced
invasive
Florence, J./Chevillotte, H./Ollier, C./Meyer, J.-Y. (2013)
Adventice
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Hawai‘i (Big) Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Wagner, Warren L./Herbst, Derral R./Sohmer, S. H. (1999) (pp. 1578-1580)
Voucher cited: Hosaka 2181 (BISH)
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Kaua‘i Island introduced
invasive
Wagner, Warren L./Herbst, Derral R. (1995) (p. 24)
Vouchers cited: Plews s.n. (BISH), Flynn et al. 2712 (BISH, PTBG)
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Lāna‘i Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Wagner, Warren L./Herbst, Derral R./Sohmer, S. H. (1999) (pp. 1578-1580)
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Maui Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Wagner, Warren L./Herbst, Derral R./Sohmer, S. H. (1999) (pp. 1578-1580)
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Moloka‘i Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Hughes, Guy D'Oyly (1995) (p. 9)
Voucher cited: Hughes 335 (US)
Naturalized to 1100 m elevation, out-competing many native species for space and light.
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
O‘ahu Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Wagner, Warren L./Herbst, Derral R./Sohmer, S. H. (1999) (pp. 1578-1580)
New Caledonia
New Caledonia Archipelago
Île Grande Terre introduced
cultivated
MacKee, H. S. (1994) (p. 61)
Voucher cited: MacKee 43835
New Guinea (Indonesia and Papua New Guinea)
New Guinea Island
New Guinea Island   Holm, Leroy/Pancho, Juan V./Herberger, James P./Plucknett, Donald L. (1979) (p. 271)
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea (eastern New Guinea Island)
Papua New Guinea (eastern New Guinea Island) introduced
cultivated
Henty, E. E. (1969) (p. 147)
Wallis and Futuna
Wallis and Futuna (Horne) Islands
Wallis (‘Uvea) Island introduced
cultivated
Meyer, Jean-Yves (2007) (p. 13)
Wallis and Futuna
Wallis and Futuna (Horne) Islands
Wallis (‘Uvea) Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Meyer, Jean-Yves/Jourdan, Hervé/Malau, Atoloto (2008) (p. 9)
Pacific Rim
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Comments
Australia
Australia (continental)
Queensland introduced
invasive
Holm, Leroy G./Plucknett, D. L./Pancho, J. V./Herberger, J. P. (1977) (p. 364)
Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia (Kingdom of)   Holm, Leroy/Pancho, Juan V./Herberger, James P./Plucknett, Donald L. (1979) (p. 271)
China
China
China (People's Republic of)   Hafliger, Ernst/Scholz, Hildemar (1980) (p. 112)
Colombia
Colombia
Colombia (Republic of) introduced
invasive
Holm, Leroy G./Plucknett, D. L./Pancho, J. V./Herberger, J. P. (1977) (p. 365)
Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica (Republic of) introduced
invasive
Holm, Leroy G./Plucknett, D. L./Pancho, J. V./Herberger, J. P. (1977) (p. 366)
Ecuador (Mainland)
Ecuador
Ecuador (Republic of) (continental) introduced
invasive
Holm, Leroy G./Plucknett, D. L./Pancho, J. V./Herberger, J. P. (1977) (p. 365)
Guatemala
Guatemala
Guatemala (Republic of)   Holm, Leroy/Pancho, Juan V./Herberger, James P./Plucknett, Donald L. (1979) (p. 271)
Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia (Republic of)   Hafliger, Ernst/Scholz, Hildemar (1980) (p. 112)
Mexico
Mexico
Mexico (United Mexican States) introduced
Weber, Ewald (2003) (p. 310)
New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand (country) introduced
invasive
Owen, S. J. (1997)
New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand (country) introduced
invasive
Edgar, E./Connor, H. (2000) (p. 574)
"Pastures, coastal (sandy or rocky foreshore), reclamation areas, roadsides, lawns, stream banks".
Panama
Panama
Panama (Republic of)   Holm, Leroy/Pancho, Juan V./Herberger, James P./Plucknett, Donald L. (1979) (p. 271)
Perú
Perú
Perú (Republic of) introduced
invasive
Holm, Leroy G./Plucknett, D. L./Pancho, J. V./Herberger, J. P. (1977) (p. 365)
Taiwan
Taiwan Island
Taiwan Island introduced
invasive
Holm, Leroy G./Plucknett, D. L./Pancho, J. V./Herberger, J. P. (1977) (p. 366)
United States (west coast)
United States (west coast states)
USA (California) introduced
invasive
Holm, Leroy G./Plucknett, D. L./Pancho, J. V./Herberger, J. P. (1977) (p. 366)
United States (west coast)
United States (west coast states)
USA (California) introduced
invasive
Motooka, Philip/Castro, Luisa/Nelson, Duane/Nagai, Guy/Ching, Lincoln (2003)
"A serious weed in California".
Indian Ocean
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Comments
La Réunion (France)
La Réunion Island
La Réunion Island introduced
invasive
Lavergne, Christophe (2006)
"Envahissant"
Mauritius
Mautitius Islands (Mauritius and Rodrigues)
Mauritius Island   Holm, Leroy/Pancho, Juan V./Herberger, James P./Plucknett, Donald L. (1979) (p. 271)

Comments:  In the past, often used for soil stabilization. Not recommended due to its invasive nature. On U.S. Federal noxious weed list. A problem in Hawai‘i, La Réunion, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Control: 

Physical: Difficult to dig out as all rhizomes must be removed.

Chemical: Roundup (without Pulse) 1%, Dowpon 740-SP (16-20 g/l sater), Gallant (0.5%); spray new growth, spot spray regrowth (Timmins and Mackenzie, 1995; pp. 195-197).  "Sensitive to glyphosate and imazapyr. HAVO staff reported control with glyphosate at 1% of product in water applied to wet the green foliage (Chris Zimmer, HAVO)"  (Motooka et al., 2003).  "The grass can be eradicated by spraying with 0.5% glyphosate (Gardner and Kageler, 1983) or Dalapon (Hosaka, 1958)" (Smith, 1985; pp. 197-198).

Biological: It has been evaluated for biological control in Hawai‘i but no action will be taken because of its agricultural importance (Gardner and Davis, 1982). A rust (Phakospora aroda (Har. and Pat.) Mains) has recently become established on in Hawai‘i but its impact is not yet known (Gardner, 1984). Two insect pests, Sphenophorus ventus vestitus and Herpetogramma licarsicalis, damage kikuyu grass in Hawai‘i (Cronk & Fuller, 2001; p. 179).  "Susceptible to the yellow sugarcane aphid (Sipha sp.)" (Motooka et al., 2003).

Additional information:
Excerpt from the book "Weeds of Hawaii‘s Pastures and Natural Areas; An Identification and Management Guide" (Motooka et al., 2003). (PDF format).
Information on the Environment Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, web site.
Information from the Global Invasive Species Database.
Information sheet from Weedbusters New Zealand.

Additional online information about Pennisetum clandestinum is available from the Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk project (HEAR).

Information about Pennisetum clandestinum as a weed (worldwide references) may be available from the Global Compendium of Weeds (GCW).

Taxonomic information about Pennisetum clandestinum may be available from the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).

References:

Cronk, Q. C. B./Fuller, J. L. 2001. Plant invaders. Earthscan Publications, Ltd., London. 241 pp.

Edgar, E./Connor, H. 2000. Flora of New Zealand, vol. V: Gramineae. Manaaki Whenua Press. .

Florence, J./Chevillotte, H./Ollier, C./Meyer, J.-Y. 2013. Base de données botaniques Nadeaud de l'Herbier de la Polynésie Française (PAP). (online resource).

Hafliger, Ernst/Scholz, Hildemar. 1980. Grass weeds, vol. 1. CIBA-GEIGY Ltd., Basle, Switzerland. 142 pp. + plates.

Henty, E. E. 1969. A manual of the grasses of New Guinea. Department of Forests, Division of Botany, Botany Bull. No. 1. Lae, New Guinea. 215 pp.

Holm, Leroy G./Plucknett, D. L./Pancho, J. V./Herberger, J. P. 1977. The world’s worst weeds: distribution and biology. East-West Center/University Press of Hawaii. 609 pp.

Holm, Leroy/Pancho, Juan V./Herberger, James P./Plucknett, Donald L. 1979. A geographical atlas of world weeds. John Wiley & Sons, New York. 391 pp.

Hughes, Guy D'Oyly. 1995. New Hawaiian plant records II. In: Evenhuis, Neal L. and Miller, Scott, E., eds. Records of the Hawaii Biological Survey for 1994. Part 2: Notes. Bishop Museum Occasional Papers. 42:1-10.

Lavergne, Christophe. 2006. List des especes exotiques envahissantes a La Reunion. Unpublished manuscript (Excel file). .

MacKee, H. S. 1994. Catalogue des plantes introduites et cultivées en Nouvelle-Calédonie. Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, 164 p.

Meyer, Jean-Yves. 2007. Rapport de mission sur l'Ile d'Uvea (Wallis & Futuna) du 6 au 17 Novembre 2007: Inventaire preliminaire de la flore vasculaire secondaire [unpublished report]. Délégation à la Recherche, Ministère de l'Education, l'Enseignement Supérieur et la Recherche, B.P. 20981 Papeete, Tahiti, Polynésie française. 39 pp.

Meyer, Jean-Yves. 2008. Rapport de mission d'expertise a Rapa Nui du 02 au 11 Juin 2008: Plan d'action strategique pour lutter contre les plantes introduites envahissantes sur Rapa Nui (Île de pâques) [Strategic action plan to control invasive alien plants on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) [unpublished report]. Délégation à la Recherche, Ministère de l'Education, l'Enseignement supérieur et la Recherche, B.P. 20981 Papeete, Tahiti, Polynésie française. 62 pp. .

Meyer, Jean-Yves/Jourdan, Hervé/Malau, Atoloto. 2008. Recent incursions of invasive animal and plant species in the small and remote archipelago of Wallis and Futuna (South Pacific): "La maison brûle mais nous regardons ailleurs". In: Aliens 27: 8-9.

Motooka, Philip/Castro, Luisa/Nelson, Duane/Nagai, Guy/Ching, Lincoln. 2003. Weeds of Hawaii‘s Pastures and Natural Areas; An Identification and Management Guide. College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa. 184 pp.

Motooka, Philip/Ching, Lincoln/Nagai, Guy. 2002. Herbicidal Weed Control Methods for Pasture and Natural Areas of Hawaii. Cooperative Extension Service, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawai‘i. CTAHR free publication WC-8.

Orchard, Anthony E., ed. 1994. Flora of Australia. Vol. 49, Oceanic islands 1. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Owen, S. J. 1997. Ecological weeds on conservation land in New Zealand: A database. Working draft. Wellington, New Zealand. Department of Conservation.

Pickard, J. 1984. Exotic plants on Lord Howe Island: Distribution in space and time, 1853-1981. J. of Biogeography 11:181-208.

Smith, Clifford W. 1985. Impact of Alien Plants on Hawai‘i's Native Biota. In: Stone, Charles P. and Scott, J. Michael, eds. Hawai‘i's terrestrial ecosystems: preservation and Management. Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit, University of Hawaii, Manoa.

Timmins, S. M./Mackenzie, I. W. 1995. Weeds in New Zealand protected natural areas database. Wellington, New Zealand. Department of Conservation, , Technical Series No. 8. 287 pp.

U. S. Government. 2013. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (on-line resource).

U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. 2013. National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online searchable database.

Wagner, Warren L./Herbst, Derral R. 1995. Contributions to the Flora of Hawai‘i. IV. New Records and name changes. In: Evenhuis, Neal L. and Miller, Scott, E., eds. Records of the Hawaii Biological Survey for 1994. Part 2: Notes. Bishop Museum Occasional Papers. 42:13-27.

Wagner, Warren L./Herbst, Derral R./Sohmer, S. H. 1999. Manual of the flowering plants of Hawaii. Revised edition. Bernice P. Bishop Museum special publication. University of Hawai‘i Press/Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu. 1919 pp. (two volumes).

Weber, Ewald. 2003. Invasive plants of the World. CABI Publishing, CAB International, Wallingford, UK. 548 pp.

Zhengyi, Wu/Raven, Peter H./Deyuan, Hong. 2013. Flora of China (online resource).

Ziesing, P. 1997. Norfolk Island weed control manual for selected weeds occurring in Norfolk Island National Park. Environment Australia, Norfolk Island.


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This page was created on 1 JAN 1999 and was last updated on 22 AUG 2011.