Buffalo grass

Stenotaphrum secundatum (Walter) Kuntze

Synonyms -Stenotaphrum dimidiatum, Stenotaphrum glabrum, Stenotaphrum americanum, Ischaemum secundatum.

Order - Poales

Family - Poaceae


Stenotaphrum is from the Greek stenos meaning narrow and taphros meaning a trench and refers to the narrow, trenched seed head.


Buffalo Grass because it often grows abundantly in wet areas where buffalo feed in North America.

Other Names


St. Augustine Grass


Buffalo Grass is a coarse leaved, perennial lawn grass spreading by runners (stolons). The inflorescence is a flat, fleshy, thickened axis 4-10 cm long which has small spikelets embedded along each edge. Each spikelet is 4-5 mm long. Native to tropical and subtropical areas of America and Africa, it is a weed of watercourses, roadsides and swamps and flowers in spring and autumn.





Light green
Blade - 10-150 (-200) mm long by 4-10 (-12) mm wide, keeled, channelled, in rolled edges, parallel sided, rough on the edges near the top. Flat to rounded tipped. Base squarish. Lower ones often at right angles to the stem. Mainly hairless with a few short hairs along the midrib on the underside and along the edges near the tip and a few longer hairs near the base. Mid rib prominent on the lower surface. Veins often light giving it a striped appearance under a hand lens.
Ligule - Row of fine hairs, 0.5 mm long.
Auricles - None.
Sheath - Flattened, pale, firm, keeled, obvious midrib. Hairless or with hairs near the top and on the edges and mid rib. Surface ridged. Often red-purplish near the base giving it a somewhat striped appearance.

Collar - Usually lighter than the blade and sheath


Low lying to ascending, green to red, round to flattened, branched stolons with short, erect shoots and underground rhizomes. Forms roots at the nodes. Often bent at the nodes. Hairless.

Flowering stems - Upright, 100-300 mm tall.

Flower head:

Spike like, stout, erect, straight or curved panicle at the ends of the main stems on stout hairless stalks(peduncles) and often partially to completely enclosed in the top sheath. Main axis is thick, corky, flattened, wavy, 20-100 mm long by 4-6 (-10) mm wide with tooth like lobes behind the upper racemes and has 10-20 racemes each 5-10 mm long. Short, rigid, low lying, angular branches bear spikelets in groups of 1-3 (usually 2) in hollows on one side of the stalk (rachis) which is almost flat on the back. Brittle at maturity and breaks into small pieces. Spikelets in a group overlap and the branch ends in an erect tooth. Hairless.


Spikelets - Stalkless, erect, pointed, 4-5 mm long by 2-2.5 mm wide, rigid. Hairless. Usually sterile.
Florets - 2. Lower one male or empty. Upper on bisexual.
Glumes - 1st one short and flat topped, 1-2 mm long, whitish, membranous with no nerves and hairless to slightly rough. 2nd one 4-5 mm long, boat shaped, membranous and 5-7 nerved with a pointed tip.
Palea - Lower one slightly shorter or same length as the lemma, thickened on keels, broad translucent edges. Upper one smooth with broad translucent edges.
Lemma - 1st one, 4-5 mm long, 7-9 nerved usually has a male floret. 2nd one, 4-5 mm long, sometimes fertile, 5-7 nerved.
Stamens -
Anthers -



Elliptic to oblong, 4-5 mm long, flattened on the back.


Fibrous roots arising from the nodes.

Underground rhizomes may reach up to 500 mm deep.

Key Characters:


Life cycle:

Perennial. Establishes from runners and grows mainly from spring to autumn and is semi dormant in winter. Stems can be somewhat sprawling and form loose mats up to 1 m deep over other plants and debris.


Somewhat salt tolerant and tolerates salt spray.

Relatively drought tolerant.


Sterile in WA.

Flowering times:

September to April in Perth.

Summer in SA.

Summer in WA.

December to February in Victoria.

Seed Biology and Germination:

It doesn't produce seed in WA.

Vegetative Propagules:

Stem fragments and rhizomes.


Various type exist that have varying susceptibility to the 2,4-D and the hormone herbicides.

Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread by mainly by stem fragments (stolons) and rhizomes that are intentionally planted or dumped as garden refuse. Seed is rare.

Origin and History:

Southern USA. South America. Africa.



New Zealand.

Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium



Temperate. Mediterranean.


Grows on a wide range of sandy and loamy soils including low fertility soils and coastal soils exposed to salt spray.

Plant Associations:



Common lawn grass that is favoured in seaside situations.



Weed of roadsides, gardens, grassland, river banks, swamps and disturbed areas.

In suitable areas it smothers other vegetation.

Listed as a "Garden thug".


Not recorded as toxic.



Management and Control:

Grazing normally provides adequate control.

It tolerates mowing and occasional cultivation.

Avoid dumping garden waste in bushland and areas where it may establish.

Don't plant close to bushland.


Eradication strategies:

It is relatively easy to eradicate because it rarely spreads by seed. Removal or killing all runners will provide long term control.

Burn the grass to reduce thatch and encourage young growth ready for spraying. Use 100 mL glyphosate plus 25 mL Pulse® in 10 L of water in autumn and spring when the grass is actively growing provides high levels of control. Repeat if necessary. Pay particular attention to the last few surviving runners and remove them manually if necessary as these will form the new infestation after control stops.

Selective control amongst broad leaved plants can usually be achieved by spraying with 800 mL/ha Verdict®520 or 4 L/ha quizalofop(100g/L) or 6.4 L/ha Fusilade®Forte plus 1% spray oil. Use 16 mL Verdict®520 or 80 mL quizalofop(100g/L) or 125 mL Fusilade®Forte plus 100 mL of spray oil per 10 L water for hand sprays.

Painting runners or crowns with 1 L glyphosate in 2 L water is useful in sensitive areas.

Mowing and burning are usually ineffective. Repeated cultivation can provide control.

Solarisation can be useful in organic areas.

Avoid dumping garden refuse containing these grasses in areas where they may establish.

Herbicide resistance:

None reported.

Biological Control:

Related plants:


Plants of similar appearance:

Kikuyu, Paspalum, Couch.


Black, J.M. (1965). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). P234. Diagram.

Blood, K. (2001). Environmental weeds: a field guide for SE Australia. (CH Jerram & Associates, Australia). P218. Photos.

Ciba Geigy (1980) Grass Weeds 1. CIBA GEIGY Ltd, Basle, Switzerland. P137. Diagrams.

Hussey, B.M.J., Keighery, G.J., Cousens, R.D., Dodd, J. and Lloyd, S.G. (1997). Western Weeds. A guide to the weeds of Western Australia. (Plant Protection Society of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia). P70-71. Photo.

Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #1166.1.

Marchant et al (1987). Flora of the Perth Region. (Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Agriculture, Western Australia). P992.

Moore, J.H. and Wheeler, J.R. (2002). Southern Weeds and their Control. Photos.

Muyt, A. (2001). Bush Invaders of South-East Australia: a guide to the identification and control of environmental weeds found in South East Australia. (R.G and F.J. Richardson, Australia). P84. Photo.

Paterson, J.G. (1977). Grasses in South Western Australia. (Western Australian Department of Agriculture Bulletin 4007). P92. Diagram.


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