Cynodon dactylon

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Scientific name

Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.

Subordinate taxa:
Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. var. afghanicus J. R. Harlan & de Wet
Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. var. aridus J. R. Harlan & de Wet
Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. var. coursii (A. Camus) J. R. Harlan & de Wet
Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. var. dactylon
Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. var. elegans Rendle
Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. var. polevansii (Stent) J. R. Harlan & de Wet

Other subordinate taxa are suggested by various authors, but are not recognised in the GRIN database.  These include:
Cynodon dactylon Steud. var. affinis ( Caro & Sánchez ) C.Romero Zarco
Cynodon dactylon Steud. f. glabrescens ( Beck ) SoÓ
Cynodon dactylon Steud. f. major ( Beck ) SoÓ
Cynodon dactylon Steud. subsp. nipponicus ( Ohwi ) T.Koyama
Cynodon dactylon Steud. var. parviglumis ( Ohwi ) F.R.Fosberg & M.H.Sachet
Cynodon dactylon Steud. var. septentrionalis ( Asch. & Graebn. ) Ravarut
Cynodon dactylon Steud. f. vivipara Beetle
Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.
Cynodon dactylon subsp. hirsutissimus Litard. & Maire
Cynodon dactylon var. longiglumis Caro & E.A.Sanchez
Cynodon dactylon var. maritima ( Kunth ) Hack.
Cynodon dactylon var. maritimum Hack.
Cynodon dactylon var. pilosus Caro & E.A.Sanchez
Cynodon dactylon var. pulchellus Benth.


Capriola dactylon (L.) Kuntze
Cynodon coursii A. Camus
Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. var. densus Hurcombe
Cynodon glabratus Steud.
Cynodon polevansii Stent
Digitaria stolonifera Schrad.
Panicum dactylon L.


Family: Poaceae (alt. Gramineae) subfamily: Chloridoideae tribe: Cynodonteae .

Common names

bermuda grass, giant bermuda grass (= var. aridus) (English - USA);  couch grass, creeping panic grass, green couch (English - Australia);  bahama grass, devil's grass, dogtooth grass, hariali grass, indian couch grass, kiri-hiri, quick grass, reed grass, scotch grass, scutch grass, serangoon, wire-grass (English);  yablith (Israel);  kweekgras (Afrikaans);  chiendent dactyle, chiendent pied-de-poule, cynodon dactyle, grand chiendent (French);  bermudagras, hundezahngras (German);  capim-bermuda (Portuguese);  came de niño, chepica brave, grama rastrera, gramÓn, grama-seda, zacate de bermuda (Spanish);  hierba-fina, yerba fina (Spanish - Cuba), chepica brave, came de niño, pate de perdiz, gramilla blanca (Spanish - Peru), griming, tigriston (Suriname);  aruhu, calcutta grass, dhoub grass , dhub, doob, durva, haritali, hariali (southern Asia);  jukut kakawatan, gigirinling, rumput bermuda, rumput grinting, sukit grinting (Indonesia);  rumput minyak (Malaysia);  kawad-kawad, kapot-kapot, bakbaka (Philippines);  mye-sa-myet (Myanmar);  smao anchien (Cambodia);  hnha:z ph'è:d (Laos);  ya-phraek (Thailand);  cò'chi', co'ông (Vietnam);  manienie, manini (Hawai'i);  kabuta (Fiji);  motie molulu (Niue).

Morphological description

A fine to robust stoloniferous perennial, mostly with rhizomes.  Rhizomes can penetrate 40-50 cm in clay soil and 70-80 cm in sand.  Foliage dense, 10-40 cm tall (rarely to 90 cm);  leaf blades glabrous or sparsely pubescent, often glaucous, with minutely scabrous margins, 3-15 cm long and 2-4 mm wide;  ligule a dense row of short hairs on a membranous rim, 0.2 mm long with tuft of longer hairs either end (cf. membranous ligule in Digitaria).  Inflorescence a digitate panicle, comprising (2-) 4-5 (-7) racemes (in robust forms up to 10 racemes, sometimes in 2 whorls), 1.5-8 cm long.  Spikelets 2-3 mm long;  caryopses ovoid , about 1.5 mm long, yellow to reddish;  3-4.5 million seeds/kg.


Var. dactylon is believed to have originated in Turkey and Pakistan, but has been introduced to all tropical and subtropical, and some temperate regions of the world.
Other varieties are native to one or more of the following:
Africa:  Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Asia:  Afghanistan, India, Israel, Sri Lanka.
Indian Ocean:  Madagascar.
Grows in grassland, lawns and pastures and as a weed in cultivation.  Locally dominant along roadsides and overgrazed and trampled areas.


Used in permanent pastures for grazing or cut-and-carry, and for hay or pellets and silage production.  Provides useful standover or deferred feed.  Valuable for soil conservation, as a turf, and as a cover crop in orchards.


Soil requirements

Grows on a wide range of soils, but best in relatively fertile, well-drained soils.  Adapted over a broad range of soil pH (4.5-8.5), but grows best when the pH is above 5.5.  Good tolerance of salinity, but makes only slow growth under saline conditions (maximum yields up to EC 7 mmhos/cm), 50% of maximum at 15 mmhos/cm, and nil at 22.5 mmhos/cm (1 mmho/cm = 1 dS/m).  Can use irrigation water with salinity up to 10.8 dS/cm for plants growing in sand, to 6.1 dS/cm in loam, and to 3.6 dS/cm in clay< /A > .  Generally not tolerant of high aluminium saturation, although some varieties appear more tolerant than others.


Usually occurs over an average annual rainfall range of 625-1,750 mm, but down to 550 mm, and up to 4,300 mm.  Very drought tolerant by virtue of rhizome survival through drought-induced dormancy over periods of up to 7 months.  Tolerates at least several weeks of deep flooding.


Widely distributed from >50ºN in Europe to 34.5ºS in South Africa, and probably further south outside its native range.  It also grows from sea level over much of this latitudinal range to about 4,000 m asl in the Himalayas.  This equates to a range in average annual temperature from about 6-28°C.  There are large differences among ecotypes in terms of temperature response.  However, C. dactylon generally grows best with mean daily temperatures above 24°C or over an optimal range of 17-35°C.  Grows very slowly at 15°C.  Plants become dormant when night temperatures fall below 0°C, or the average daytime temperature below 10ºC, or cooler than a regime of an 8-hour day at 15°C and a 16-hour night at 5°C.  Although foliage and stems are usually killed at temperatures of -2 to -3°C, plants regrow rapidly from rhizomes with the onset of warm conditions.


C. dactylon is not shade tolerant and yields decrease rapidly with increasing shade.  It usually dies out under medium to dense shade.

Reproductive development

Flowers throughout the growing season .  Wind pollinated.


Extremely tolerant of heavy grazing, but more productive if correctly managed.  Regular grazing and nitrogen fertilisation are necessary to maintain quality.  Cut for hay or silage when 30-40 cm tall or every 4-6 weeks, usually when in full bloom.  4 cuttings per year are possible.  A stubble height of 5-10 cm under grazing or cutting gives good regrowth and maintains sward density.  Renovate by ploughing or discing when sod-bound.


It will stand severe fires due to the extensive rhizome development in most varieties and cultivars.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Propagated by seed or vegetatively (turfs or stolon/rhizome pieces (sprigs).  Normally sown at 5-10 kg/ha dehulled seed, the higher rate being used for more rapid cover.  No seed dormancy has been reported.  Seed is best sown onto a very well prepared, fine, weed-free seedbed and rolled in.  Seedlings usually root down quickly.  Improved varieties are usually planted vegetatively due to low seed set or to avoid genetic drift.  Turfs or sprigs can be planted at 3.5-7 m³/ha (40-80 bu/ac) or on a 90 cm (or less) grid, into a roughly or well-prepared seedbed, but rolling is still essential.  Machinery has been developed to facilitate harvesting and planting of sprigs.  Seedlings and sprig-plantings grow vigorously once established.


Survives at low fertility possibly due to non-symbiotic N fixation in the rhizosphere , measured at 30 kg/ha N in a 100-day period.  Responds well to improved fertility, with applications of a minimum of 10 kg/ha/month N and up to 60 kg/ha/month N necessary for moderate to high productivity, particularly in some of the improved hybrids.

Compatibility (with other species)

C. dactylon is very competitive, particularly in fertile soils, and only aggressive legumes are capable of forming an association with it.  It suppresses weeds well if kept mown or grazed closely and fertilised.

Companion species

Grasses:  Generally not planted with other grasses.
Legumes:  Arachis glabrata , A. pintoi , Desmodium heterocarpon subsp. ovalifolium, Kumerowia (Lespedeza) striata, Neonotonia wightii , Stylosanthes humilis , Teramnus labialis , Trifolium incarnatum, T. repens, Vicia villosa.

Pests and diseases

Rust (Puccinia graminis) and Helminthosporium leafspot are the major fungal diseases of Cynodon dactylon , although resistant types are available.  Other fungal diseases include Bipolaris, Gaeumannomyces, Leptosphaeria, Marasmius, and tar spot (Phyllachora).  Smuts from Sporisorium, Sorosporium and Ustilago can infest seedheads.  Also attacked by the bacterium Xanthomonas cynodontis, and by barley yellow dwarf virus, lucerne dwarf virus, and viral stripe diseases (which affect corn and rice), as well as by a range of nematodes, the main one being root knot nematode (Meloidogyne spp.).  Selection for nematode resistance has been important in breeding programs.
Armyworm (Spodoptera spp.), tropical grass webworm (Herpetogramma licarsisalis), spittlebug (Prosapia bicinata) and bermudagrass mite (Eriophes cynodoniensis) are major pests.  The parasitic flowering plants Cuscuta pentagona, Nuytsia floribunda, Striga harmonithica, and S. lutea can adversely affect stands.

Ability to spread

C. dactylon spreads rapidly by rhizomes and stolons, and also by seed.  It can spread over 2 m/month during the growing season, a single plant forming a dense sward up to 25 m across in 2.5 years.

Weed potential

It is difficult to eradicate with chemicals or cultivation, and can become a serious weed in cultivated land.  Declared weed in over 80 countries.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

Crude protein varies with age of material and level of nitrogen fertilisation, from about 3 to 9% in old grass, to about 20% in young, well-fertilised grass.  IVDMD varies from 40 to 69% with genotype.


It is very palatable if kept short in growth and fertilized.  Excellent grazing for village geese, ducks, goats, cattle and buffaloes if not trampled too much by these latter heavy beasts.  The rhizomes are given to horses.


Some varieties have the potential to produce high levels of prussic or hydrocyanic acid (HCN), especially when high levels of nitrogen are applied.  However, instances of prussic acid poisoning in cattle grazing C. dactylon are rare.  Although levels of total oxalate of >1% of the DM have been recorded, there is no experience of detrimental effects on grazing cattle. Frosted C. dactylon can cause photosensitization .

Production potential

Dry matter

Productivity depends on the cultivar used, the time of year and the amount of nitrogen available.  DM yields of 1,000-3,000 kg/ha per month are possible in summer and 100-1,200 kg/ha in winter.  'Coastal' yields up to twice as much as most common ecotypes.  Annual DM yields are generally of the order of 5-15 t/ha.

Animal production

Liveweight gain of cattle ranges from 200-300 (-500) kg/ha/yr, or over 700 g/hd/day, when moderate rates of N and other fertilisers are applied and at stocking rate of about 2 or more beasts/ha.  Silage made from heavily fertilized, properly ensiled young grass can produce as much milk as corn silage and at a cheaper cost.


Commonly 2n = 18, 36;  also 2n = 27, 30, 40.

Cynodon dactylon is wind-pollinated, and generally self-incompatible, suffering from inbreeding depression when genotypes are self-pollinated. Quantitative traits such as seed yield and forage yield can be dramatically negatively affected.  Breeding programs have traditionally selected for DM yield, digestibility, disease and nematode resistance, and winter hardiness, and are now seeking to increase aluminium tolerance.

Seed production

Strains show considerable variation with respect to seed set, and in general, seed production is relatively low.  One or two crops per season - mid- and late growing season .  The crop is mowed into windrows, picked up and threshed by combines.  Seed yields may range from about 100 kg/ha to as high as 350 kg/ha.

Herbicide effects

Herbicides that can be used to control Cynodon dactylon include the aryloxyphenoxy-propionates (fenoxaprop-P-ethyl, haloxyfop, propa-quizafop, quizalofop-P-ethyl), dinitroanilines (endimethalin, prodiamine, trifluralin), glyphosate, 2,4-D, 2,2-DPA, clomazone, and sulfonylureas (imazapyr, sulfometuron, and thiazopyr).  Sulfometuron and metribuzin are more effective than thiazopyr and imazapyr, and glyphosate gives variable results.



Selected references

Bogdan, A.V. (1977) Tropical Pasture and Fodder Plants (Grasses and Legumes). pp. 92-98. (Longman: London and New York).
de Wet, J.M.J. and Harlan, J.R. (1970) Biosystematics of Cynodon L.C. Rich. (Gramineae). Taxon, 19, 565-569.
Hanna, W.W. Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. In: 't Mannetje, L. and Jones, R.M. (eds) Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 4. Forages. pp. 100-102. (Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, the Netherlands).
Harlan, J.R. and de Wet, J.M.J. (1969) Sources of variation in Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. Crop Science (Madison), 9, 774-778.
Harlan, J.R., de Wet, J.M.J., Huffine, W.W. and Deakin J.R. (1970) A guide to the species of Cynodon (Gramineae). Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin B-673.

Internet links



Country/date released


'Alicia' Texas, USA (1967) From South Africa.  Spreads and becomes established more rapidly, but is less winter hardy and less resistant to diseases, and has lower quality than 'Coastal'.  Susceptible to rust.
(PI 464656)
Texas, USA (1982) F1 hybrid ('Guymon' X 9958) x (X-820).  Has larger leaves, stems and rhizomes than 'Coastal'. Slower to establish but higher forage quality (dry matter digestibility) and better gain per animal than 'Coastal'.  Equal or superior to 'Coastal' in stand density, persistence under grazing, and winter hardiness.  The larger stems do not favour hay drying, but do resist lodging in contrast to 'Coastal'.  Better animal performance than 'Tifton 44', an improved winter-hardy cultivar.
'Callie' Mississippi, USA (1974) Selected from introductions from South Africa.  Probably a hybrid, but exact origin unknown.  A tall-growing type, with large stolons and wide leaves, producing an open sward.  Establishes more rapidly, has better forage quality (dry matter digestibility), and has higher yields during the establishment year than 'Coastal'.  Not very winter hardy, and susceptible to rust.  10-15% higher hay yields than 'Coastal'.
'Coastal' Georgia, USA (1943) F1 hybrid between 'Tift' and tall-growing introduction from South Africa.  Selected for palatability, efficiency, yield potential, management requirements, production under grazing, etc.  Compared to common variety has larger and longer stems, stolons, and rhizomes;  grows much taller;  is lighter green;  has deeper root system;  is more resistant to foliage diseases, root knot nematode, frost, and drought;  is much more efficient in nutrient and water use;  is more palatable and produces nearly twice as much forage and animal products.  Produces few seed heads that rarely contain viable seed;  must be propagated vegetatively.  Used for grazing and hay.  Responds well to fertility and irrigation but also has considerable drought tolerance.  Suppresses root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.), favouring association with root-knot susceptible legumes.  Tolerates frequent and close grazing, but responds well to good grazing management.  Winterkill occurs in colder environments.
'Coastcross-1' Georgia, USA (1967) A sterile F1 hybrid between self-incompatible parents, PI 255445 from Kenya and 'Coastal'.  Selected primarily for improved forage quality.  Taller, with broader, and softer leaves than 'Coastal';  strong stolon development, but few, if any, rhizomes.  Forms open sod and is susceptible to invasion by the common type.  Highly resistant to foliage diseases and the sting nematode (Belonolaimus longicaudatus).  >10% higher digestibility and up to 30% better daily liveweight gains than 'Coastal'.  Less winter-hardy than 'Coastal' or 'Oklan';  forage yields similar to those of 'Coastal'.  Used for grazing and hay .
(Tifton 35-3, later called Callie hybrid 35-3)
Florida, USA (1994) F1 hybrid developed at Tifton, Georgia by crossing 'Callie' (var. aridus) with 'Tifton 44' and selecting for greater cold tolerance and rust resistance.  Fine-stemmed variety producing high dry matter yields when grazed at 4-5 week frequency, and with good forage quality, excellent persistence, and good drought and cold tolerance.  Grows well in areas that are too cold for C. nlemfuensis .  Unaffected by two-line spittle bug (Prosapia bicinata).  Released primarily for hay production.  Has high HCN-p potential, especially with high levels of nitrogen.
'Grazer' Louisiana, USA (1985) F1 hybrid between PI 320876, from the Alps of northern Italy, and PI 255450 from Kenya.  More prostrate than most hybrids, and darker green than 'Coastal', developed primarily for grazing.  Has winter hardiness, persistence, and drought tolerance about equal to 'Coastal'.  Establishes more rapidly, forms a shorter, denser sod, and produces fewer rhizomes than 'Coastal'.  Lower forage yields but higher digestibility than those 'Coastal', giving comparable or higher average daily gain and gain per hectare.
'Greenfield' Oklahoma, USA (1954) Selected at Stillwater from a large number of naturalised Oklahoma strains.  Intermediate between coarse and very fine types.  Has numerous short, crooked rhizomes, and purple exposed stolons, forming a dense mat.  Readily established and fast spreading.  Winter hardy and produces early spring growth.  Lower forage yields than 'Midland' and similar cultivars.  Used for pasture and erosion control, growing well on thin, eroded soils.
'Guymon' Oklahoma, USA (1982) Hybrid between winter-hardy, self-incompatible accessions PI 253302 from Yugoslavia and PI 12156, collected near Guymon.  A general purpose, seed-propagated, cold-tolerant variety for soil stabilization and erosion control on lawns, playgrounds, roadsides, and similar areas.  Also suitable for pasture use, but produces less forage than 'Midland' or 'Tifton 44'.  Has greater cold tolerance than seeded common varieties.
'Hardie' Oklahoma, USA (1974) An infertile, vegetatively propagated F1 hybrid between 9945A (PI 206427, var. dactylon, from Elazig, Turkey) and 8153 x 9953 (both variants of PI 223248, var. afghanicus, from Khanadad, Afghanistan).  Taller growing with longer and broader leaves than 'Midland', and larger rhizomes and stems producing a more open sod than 'Midland'.  Leaves tend to accumulate anthocyanin pigmentation during cool weather.  May not establish as readily as 'Midland'.  More winter hardy than 'Coastal' or 'Oklan'.  Higher forage quality than and similar yield to 'Midland', producing better individual animal performance and greater gain/hectare/year.  Good early season growth.  Susceptible to leaf-spot disease.  Grows best on deep, fertile soils.  Used for pasture and hay production.
'Jiggs' Texas, USA (1989) Adapted to heavy clay soils.  Easier to establish than 'Tifton 85' and spreads rapidly by runners.  Susceptible to leaf diseases during rainy periods or in the more humid regions.  Used for hay or grazing particularly in irrigated, intensively managed pastures.
'Midland' Georgia, USA (1953) F1 hybrid between cold-resistant common type from Indiana, and 'Coastal'.  Most productive of 66 F1 hybrids.  Taller, larger, leafier, more disease-resistant, and producing more open sod than common types;  also darker green, and tending to produce more heads.  More cold resistant, with better early spring growth than 'Coastal', but less productive if 'Coastal' not subject to winterkill.  The most winter hardy of the improved, upright, high-producing cultivars.  Adapted to shallow, drought -prone soils.
'NK37' or 'Giant' USA (1972) A giant, diploid seeding type.  Root knot nematode resistant.  Selected for arid environment.  Susceptible to Helminthosporium leaf spot.  In more humid environments, tends to be productive for a short time after establishment and then has declined rapidly in yield.  Distinguished from common types by its greater vigour and lack of pubescence.
'Oklan' USA Selected for good forage quality (high digestibility).  Less winter-hardy than 'Hardie' or 'Midland', and starting growth later in spring than 'Midland'.  Propagated by stolons.
'Russell' Alabama, Louisiana, USA (1994) Vegetatively propagated variety that appeared in a field originally planted to 'Callie' in Russell County, Alabama.  Resembles the common type in many respects, producing both rhizomes and stolons, forming a dense sod that holds up well under grazing and being especially effective in preventing erosion.  Strikes more readily from clippings, gives higher yields, spreads more rapidly, and is more winter-hardy than 'Coastal'.  Forage quality similar to that of 'Coastal'.
'Suwannee' Georgia, USA (1953) F1 hybrid between 'Tift' and a tall-growing introduction from South Africa.  Similar to 'Coastal', although more erect, producing more open sod (and therefore less weed resistant), less tolerant of close grazing, but more drought-resistant and superior in productivity and efficiency of nutrient and water use on deep sands.  Better adapted to soils of low fertility than 'Coastal'.  Used for grazing and hay .
'Tift' Georgia, USA Discovered by J.L. Stephens in old cotton patch near Tifton, Georgia in 1929.  Has long decumbent stems, few seed-heads and an abundance of large stolons and rhizomes.  Superior to common types for both hay and pasture .
'Tifton 44' Georgia, USA (1978) F1 hybrid between 'Coastal' and a naturalised accession from Berlin, Germany.  Lower growing, with finer stems, more rhizomes, and denser sod than 'Coastal'.  More resistant to leaf diseases than 'Midland'.  Starts growth a little earlier in spring, and is more winter-hardy than 'Coastal'.  More productive and more digestible giving 15-20% higher average daily liveweight gains during summer than 'Coastal', but slower to establish, seldom providing any significant forage production during the establishment year.  Used for grazing and hay .
'Tifton 68' Georgia, USA (1984) F1 hybrid between the two most digestible accessions in a collection of 500 introductions, PI 255450 from Kiboko, Kenya, and PI 293606 from Nairobi, Kenya.  Selected for rapid spread and high production.  Giant type with large stems, long stolons, and no rhizomes.  Spreads rapidly when planted vegetatively.  Higher production, digestibility, and average daily gain than 'Coastal', but is not very winter hardy.  Used for grazing and hay .
'Tifton 78' Georgia, USA (1984) F1 hybrid between 'Callie' and 'Tifton 44'.  Selected for ease of establishment, rapid spread, and early growth.  Taller, more stoloniferous (spreading more rapidly), establishes more readily, starts growth earlier and has better forage quality than 'Coastal'.  Similar in spread, establishment, and growth habit to 'Callie', but produces more rhizomes, is more winter-hardy, and resistant to rust.  Can produce 25% more dry matter, with 7% higher digestibility, leading to a 36% overall improvement in liveweight performance over 'Coastal'.  Not as winter hardy as 'Tifton 44'.  Used for grazing and hay .
'Tifton 85' Georgia, USA (1991) F1 hybrid from cross between PI 290884 from South Africa and 'Tifton 68'.  Selected for increased dry-matter yield and improved forage digestibility.  It is taller, has larger stems, broader leaves, and a darker green colour than most other hybrids.  Has large rhizomes (though fewer than 'Coastal' and 'Tifton 44') and very large, rapidly spreading stolons.  Can produce 26% more dry matter with 11% higher digestibility than 'Coastal'.  Not very winter-hardy.  Used for grazing and hay .

Other cultivars such as 'C2', 'Sunturf', 'Tifway', 'Tifway II', 'Tifgreen', 'Tifgreen 328', 'Tifdwarf', 'FloraDwarf' (putting greens), 'GN-1', 'MS-Choice', 'MS-Express', 'MS-Pride', 'NuMex Sahara', 'Sultan', 'Yuma', 'Blue-muda' have been developed for turf.

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



None reported.