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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Kikuyugrass  (Pennisetum clandestinum)

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Life stages of Kikuyugrass mature kikuyugrass aboveground stems (stolons) leaf base flowers

Kikuyugrass is a tough, low-growing perennial grass with an extensive network of coarse creeping stems. Introduced to California to control erosion on hillsides, it has escaped cultivation and become weedy in many agricultural and landscape situations in California. It is found in the North and Central Coast, southwest regions, San Francisco Bay region, and Santa Cruz Island to about of 3300 feet (1000 m). Kikuyugrass inhabits agricultural land, turf, landscaped areas, and other disturbed locations. Under certain conditions it may accumulate levels of oxalates and nitrates that are toxic to livestock when consumed in quantity.


Urban places, gardens, landscaped areas, orchards, cropland, turf, forested sites, occasionally wetland areas, roadsides and other disturbed sites.


Leaf blades are light green and narrow with a few short hairs.

Mature plant

The mature plant forms a low mat with creeping underground, horizontal stems (rhizomes) and stout creeping aboveground, horizontal stems (stolons) that grow to 20 inches (about 50 cm) or more in length. The stolons are usually flattened, or slightly so, and have many swollen stem joints (nodes) with brown sheaths below them. Leaves are rolled or folded in the bud. There are two long, wide leaves on non-flowering stems. Flower-bearing stems are short and have stiff leaf blades. Leaves of kikuyugrass are light green in color and range in length from 1 to 10 inches (2.5–25 cm) long and about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch (0.3–0.6 cm) wide. Leaf blades are flat with pointed leaf tips.

Collar region

The collar is pale. The ligule consists of a fringe of fine hairs, unequal in length. There is no auricle.


Flowers bloom from April though October but are generally obvious only in the mornings when humid and cool. Flower heads are short. Often the long white filament supporting the anthers (male structures) protrude. Sometimes both the anthers and stigmas (female structures) protrude from the flowering stem.


Seeds are shiny, dark brown, 1/8 of an inch (3 mm) long, and have a large attachment scar at the base.


Kikuyugrass reproduces primarily by fragments of aboveground and belowground horizontal, creeping stems (stolons and rhizomes respectively) and to a lesser extent by seed. Rhizome and stolon fragments, as well as seed, disperse by landscape maintenance activities, and as contaminants of soil and water movement, agricultural machinery, and hand tools.

Related or similar plants

  • St. Augustinegrass, Stenotaphrum secundatum
  • Bermudagrass, Cynodon dactylon

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