T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass)

Kingdom: Plantae
(Unranked): Angiosperms
(Unranked): Monocots
(Unranked): Commelinids 
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae 
Genus: Pennisetum 
Species: P. clandestinum 
Binomial name: Pennisetum clandestinum 
Common name: Kikuyu

The tropical grass species Pennisetum clandestinum is known by several common names, most often kikuyu grass, as it is native to the region of East Africa that is home to the Kikuyu tribe. It is native to the low-elevation tropics of Kenya and environs, where it grows best in humid heat, such as the wet coastal areas. Because of its rapid growth and aggressive nature, it is categorised as a noxious weed in some regions. However, it is also a popular garden lawn species in Australia and South Africa because it is cheap and drought-tolerant. In addition it is useful as pasture for livestock grazing.
Pennisetum clandestinum is a rhizomatous plant, in the Poaceae (grass) family, that has matted roots and a grass-like or herbaceous habit. The leaves are green, flattened or upwardly folded along the midrib, 10-150 millimetres long, and 1-5 mm wide. The apex of the leaf blade is obtuse. It occurs in sandy soil and reaches a height of between 70 to 150 millimetres. The species favours moist areas and frequently becomes naturalised from introduction as a cultivated alien. Rooted nodes send up bunches of grass blades.
It has high invasive potential due to its elongate rhizomes and stolons, with which it penetrates the ground, rapidly forming dense mats, and suppressing other plant species. It grows from a thick network of rhizomatous roots and sends out stolons which extend along the ground. It can climb over other plant life, shading it out and producing herbicidal toxins that kill competing plants. It prevents new sprouts of other species from growing, may kill small trees and can choke ponds and waterways. It is resistant to mowing and grazing due to its strong network of roots, which easily send up new shoots. It springs up in turfs and lawns, and can damage buildings by growing in the gaps between stones and tiles. The plant is easily introduced to new areas on ploughing and digging machinery, which may transfer bits of the rhizome in soil clumps. While the grass spreads well via vegetative reproduction from pieces of rhizome, it is also dispersed via seed.

A battle of two problem plants, Tradescantia fluminensis (Wandering Jew) and Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu)

 

The rooted nodes of 
Kikuyu
that send up the grass blades.