Kikuyu grass

Pennisetum clandestinum

Common name:

Kikuyu grass

Scientific name:

Pennisetum clandestinum

Alternative common names:

West African pennisetum.

Kikuyu grass is a rhizomatous grass with matted roots and a grass-like or herbaceous habit. It is a prostrate perennial, which may form a loose sward up to 46cm high when ungrazed, but under grazing or mowing, it assumes a dense turf. The grass spreads vigorously from rhizomes and stolons, which root readily at the nodes and are profusely branched. 

Additional Info

  • Where does this species come from?

    East Africa.

    What is its invasive status in South Africa?

    NEMBA Category 1b in protected areas and wetlands.

    Where in South Africa is it a problem?

    Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Free State.

    How does it spread?

    It can spread quickly from rhizomes and stolons in suitable soil, and from seed spread by cattle or water flow.

    Why is it a problem?

    Kikuyu grass forms a thick mat that crowds out desirable species. On golf courses it often invades greens.

    What does it look like?

    Leaves: The leaves are light green and range in length from 2.5-25cm. Flowers: The flowering stems are short and leafy, 10-15cm tall. Fruit/seeds: Has no visible seed head; the seeds form inside the leaf sheaths. The seed are dark brown and about 3mm in length.

    Does the plant have any uses?

    It is grown as ornamental grass in gardens, on sporting fields and in other public areas.