Axonopus scoparius

Click on images to enlarge

© Environmental and Conservation Programs, The Field Museum, Chicago.

Print Fact Sheet

Scientific name

Axonopus scoparius (Flüggé) Kuhlm.


Paspalum iridifolium Poepp.
Paspalum scopariumFlüggé


Family: Poaceae (alt. Gramineae) subfamily: Panicoideae tribe: Paniceae.

Common names

imperial grass , capim Colômbia (Brazil);  maicillo (Peru);  cachi (Central America).

Morphological description

Perennial, 0.6–2 m in height, forming tufts with succulent stems (also reported to spread on slopes by long stolons).  Leaves glabrous or hairy on the upper surface, 10–60 cm long and 5–35 mm wide.  Inflorescence is a terminal and/or axillary panicle , 10–30 cm long, often purplish with 10–100 (mostly 15–25) spikes, 10–15 cm long.  Spikelets slightly hairy, 2.5–3 mm long.

A. scoparius is rather similar to the closely related micay grass (Axonopus micay García-Barr.).  The latter can be distinguished by its non-tufted, creeping, rhizomatous habit, shorter growth (thus used for grazing), much shorter central rachis of the panicle and lower number of spikelets/spike .


Native to:
North America:  Mexico.
Mesoamerica:  Costa Rica, Panama.
South America:  Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela.


Used as cut forage (fresh and as silage);  reported to be the main cut-and-carry grass in the coffee zone of Colombia, but increasingly being replaced by king grass (Pennisetum purpureum Schumach. x Pennisetum americanum (L.) Leeke).


Soil requirements

Prefers well-drained, fertile soils with high organic matter content, but will also grow on acid, less fertile soils.


Well adapted to the moist, sub-humid to humid tropics with 1,000 to >2,000 mm  AAR;  not very drought tolerant.


Grows well in a fairly wide temperature range (14–26ºC);  in Colombia, best growth from 1,200–2,000 m asl ;  at altitudes <600 m, night temperatures need to be low.


No information available.

Reproductive development

No information available.


Mainly used as a cut-and-carry grass ;  cutting at soil surface recommended.


No information available.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Commonly established by stem cuttings (400 to >600 kg/ha).


Reported to be less responsive to mineral fertilizer (mainly P) than most other grasses;  however, responds well to application of manure.

Compatibility (with other species)

No information available.

Companion species

No information available.

Pests and diseases

Bacterial gummosis (Xanthomonas axonopodis Starr & Garcés) is a major limiting factor.

Ability to spread

No significant spread.

Weed potential

Probably none.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

Considered to be of moderate quality:  CP values according to growth stage (from 5.3% after flowering to 11.8% for 60-day regrowth, Costa Rica and Colombia);  IVDMD 40–84%;  CF 23–35%;  P 0.05–0.13%, Ca 0.27–0.70%.




None reported.

Production potential

Dry matter

10–20 t/ha/year DM (Colombia).

Animal production

4.7 l of milk/Blanco-Orejinegro cow/day (A. scoparius  alone, Colombia).


2n = 20.

Seed production

Reported to produce seeds but of very low germination.

Herbicide effects

Pre-emergence herbicide application is suggested, post-emergence application discouraged.



Selected references

Agrosoft (2001) Especies forrajeras, VersiÓn 1.0: Pasto Imperial . Agrosoft Ltda., Medellin, Colombia.
Bernal, J. (1984) Manual de pastos y forrajes para Colombia . FederaciÓn Antioqueña de Ganaderos (FADEGAN), Medellín, Colombia.
Bogdan, A.V. (1977) Tropical pasture and fodder plants . Longman, New York, USA.
Lotero, J., Chaverra, H. and Crowder, L.V. (eds) (1971) Gramíneas y leguminosas forrajeras en Colombia . Instituto Colombiano Agropecuario (ICA), Bogotá, Colombia.
Sánchez, J.M., Campabadal, C., Vargas, E. and Fonseca, H. (1986) Contenido proteico y mineral en los forrajes de la zona montañosa central de Costa Rica II. Efecto de la especie. Agronomía Costarricense, 10, 191–197.
Vargas, E., Campabadal, C. and Palmer, L. (1980) ComposiciÓn química y mineral de algunos forrajes de la Provincia de Cartago y su relaciÓn con los tequerimientos del ganado bovino. Agronomía Costarricense, 4, 165–173.

Internet links



Country/date released


‘Imperial ICA Clone 60’ Colombia Considered to be gummosis resistant.
‘Imperial ICA Clone 72’ Colombia Considered to be gummosis resistant.

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



None reported.