Crowsfoot grass

Eleusine indica (L.) Gaertner

Synonyms - Cynosurus indica.

Family: - Poaceae.


Crowsfoot grass.

Other names:

Crab grass.


Tufted annual to perennial grass to 90 cm tall with finger like seed heads.





Emerging leaves folded in the bud.

Blade - 60-300 mm long by 1.5-8 mm wide, shiny, smooth or rough to touch. folded initially then flattens, tapers to a fine point or blunt tip. A few, long, wart based hairs, especially on edges near base.

Ligule - Membranous, fringed. Occasionally absent.

Auricles -

Sheath - Flattened, keeled. Has a few, long, wart based hairs especially on the edges.


To 900 mm tall, tough and wiry, smooth, flattened, laying down to ascending, tufted or rarely spreading. Branching at the base and may form a mat. May be bent at the lower nodes. The stems do not form roots at he nodes.

Flower stem -

Flower head:

Umbel of spikes. 2-10, green, stalkless spikes rarely up to 10, 20-150 mm long, 5 mm wide in a finger like cluster at the top of the stem with one or two lower down on the stem usually. Spikelets loosely overlapping and in 2 rows on the underside. Rachis flattened and winged.


Spikelets - 3-7 mm long, lance shaped, flattened, stalkless, 3-9 fertile flowers.

Florets - 3 mm long, lance shape, keeled, bisexual. Pointed tip.

Glumes - Shorter than lemmas. Membranous. Lower one oblong, 1-2 mm long, 1 ribbed and winged on the keel or 3 ribbed, rounded tip.

Upper one egg shaped, 3-6 mm long, 3-7 ribbed, winged on the keel, pointed tip. Persistent.

Palea - 1.5-3 mm long, 2 keeled. Rough and winged along the keels.

Lemma - Narrowly oval, keeled, 3-5 mm long. Rough along keel. Pointed tip. Not incurved. Awnless.

Stamens -

Anthers -

Breaks above the glumes and between the florets.


Brown, oblong, small and finely corrugated.


Well developed, tough fibrous roots. Rarely stoloniferous.

Key Characters:

Spikes 20-90 mm long by 5 mm wide. Spikelets 4-7 mm long.


Life cycle:

Annual or perennial. Flowers February to June. Grows in summer.



By seed.

Flowering times:

February to March in SA.

Summer to autumn in NSW.

Summer in WA.

February to June in Perth.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:

Rarely has stolons.



Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Origin and History:

Native to India and Africa.



Lord Howe Island, Southern Europe, tropical and subtropical areas.



Tropical and subtropical regions.


Prefers summer moist soils. Brown or calcareous sands and loams.

Plant Associations:



Young plants used as fodder. Older plants unpalatable.


Weed of cultivation, pineapples, rotation crops, perennial crops, grass land, disturbed areas, lawn, recreational areas and pastures in the higher rainfall areas.


Toxic. Contains cyanic acid (HCN). May have toxic levels of nitrate.

Stock poisoning is not common. Seed heads may be toxic to calves and sheep. Losses were reported when hungry sheep were grazed on a dense infestations of mature seeding plants.


HCN poisoning.


HCN poisoning.

Remove stock from infested areas. Don't expose hungry stock to mature infestations and provide alternative feed.


Management and Control:

Difficult to mow or cut.


Eradication strategies:

Herbicide resistance:

Biological Control:

Related plants:

Indian Millet (E. coracana)

Goosegrass (E. tristachya) is smaller and has 2-4 spikes that are 10-30 mm long.

Plants of similar appearance:

Umbrella Canegrass (Leptochloa digitata). Umbrella Canegrass doesn't have prominently keeled glumes or lemmas.

Crab Grass (Digitaria sanguinalis) roots at the nodes, is hairy and has 2 florets per spikelet and more flower heads.


Auld, B.A. and Medd R.W. (1992). Weeds. An illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P45-46. Photo.

Black, J.M. (1978). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). P189-190. Diagram.

Burbidge, N.T. and Gray, M. (1970). Flora of the Australian Capital Territory. (Australian National University Press, Canberra). P33.

Ciba Geigy (1981) Grass Weeds 2. CIBA GEIGY Ltd, Basle, Switzerland. P64. Diagrams.

Cunningham, G.M., Mulham, W.E., Milthorpe, P.L. and Leigh, J.H. (1992). Plants of Western New South Wales. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P92. Photo.

Everist, S.L. (1974). Poisonous Plants of Australia. (Angus and Robertson, Sydney). P318-320.

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). P54-55. Photo.

Lamp, C. and Collet, F. (1990). A Field Guide to Weeds in Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne).

Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #490.2.

Marchant, N.G., Wheeler, J.R., Rye, B.L., Bennett, E.M., Lander, N.S. and Macfarlane, T.D. (1987). Flora of the Perth Region. (Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Agriculture, Western Australia). P959.

Paterson, J.G. (1977). Grasses in South Western Australia. (Western Australian Department of Agriculture Bulletin 4007). P49. Diagrams.


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