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life span of elephant grass

life span of elephant grass

life span of elephant grass

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life span of elephant grass
life span of elephant grass

Elephant grass

Native to Africa, elephant grass is a tufted perennial grass that was introduced to Australia as forage for livestock. .

Elephant grass is not a prohibited or restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Pennisetum purpureum

Similar species

  • Sugar cane


  • Tufted perennial grass up to 4m tall, similar in appearance to sugar cane but shorter and with narrower leaves.
  • Leaves are pale green, up to 4cm wide, with strong midrib tapering to fine point.
  • Flower heads are large, yellow to purple, up to 30cm long, with fine bristles along spike.


  • Often grows wild on roadsides.
  • Able to persist in disturbed areas, out-competing native vegetation.


  • Common in coastal areas of Queensland.

Life cycle

  • Flowers in summer and autumn.



  • Forms bamboo-like, densely tufted clumps that invade bushland vegetation.

How it is spread

  • Spread by wind, moving water, and seeds attached to fur, clothing and vehicles.
  • Also spread by humans moving plants or plant parts.

Garden plantings and dumping of garden waste in bushland are main sources of infestation.


Physical control

  • Graze, dig or doze out.

Herbicide control

  • Glyphosate can be used to control elephant grass under General Weed Control Section under PERMIT 11463.
  •  Always use herbicide in accordance with directions on label.

Biological control

  • No known biological control agents.

Legal requirements

  • Elephant grass is not a prohibited or restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • Local governments must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants and animals in their area. This plan may include actions to be taken on certain species. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.

Common names

Elephant grass, merker grass, Napier grass, napier, Uganda grass, bana grass, barner grass [English];

herbe à éléphant, fausse canne à sucre, canne fourragère [French];

capim-elefante, capim-napiê [Portuguese]; pasto elefante, yerba elefante, zacate elefante, hierba elefante, gigante, pasto de Uganda [Spanish];

mfufu [Afrikaans]; erepani [Cook Island];

Olifantsgras [Dutch]; rumput gajah [Indonesian, Malaysian];

erba elefante, erba Napier, erba ugandese [Italian]; urubingo [Kinyarwanda]; mabingobingo [Kiswahili]; acfucsracsracsr [Kosraean]; senjele [Nyanja]; bokso [Palauan];

puk soh [Pohnpeian]; vao povi [Samoan]; buntot-pusa [Tagalog]; cỏ voi [Vietnamese]; الثيوم الأرجواني [Arabic]; 象草 [Chinese]; Слоно́вая трава́ [Russian]

life span of elephant grass
life span of elephant grass


Pennisetum purpureum Schumach. [Poaceae]


Pennisetum benthamii Steud., Cenchrus purpureus (Schumach.) Morrone

Taxonomic information

The taxon Cenchrus purpureus (Schumach.) Morrone was proposed in 2010 as a replacement for Pennisetum purpureum Schumach. (Chemisquy et al., 2010).

Feed categories

  • Cereal and grass forages
  • Forage plants

Related feed(s)


Elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum Schumach.) is a major tropical grass.

It is one of the highest yielding tropical grasses. It is a very versatile species that can be grown under a wide range of conditions and systems:

dry or wet conditions, smallholder or larger scale agriculture.

It is a valuable forage and very popular throughout the tropics, notably in cut-and-carry systems (Mannetje, 1992; FAO, 2015).


Elephant grass is a robust, rhizomatous, tufted perennial grass. It has a vigourous root system, developing from the nodes of its creeping stolons.

The culms are coarse, perennial, and may be up to 4-7 m in height, branched above.

Elephant grass forms dense thick clumps, up to 1 m across. The leaves are flat, linear, hairy at the base, up to 100-120 cm long and 1-5 cm wide, with a bluish-green colour.

The leaf margin is finely toothed and the leaf blade has a prominent midrib.

The inflorescence is a stiff terminal bristly spike, up to 15-20 cm in length, yellow-brown to purplish in colour.

Spikelets are arranged around a hairy axis, and fall at maturity.

Spikelets are 4-6 mm long and surrounded by 2 cm long plumose bristles. There is little or no seed formation.


Elephant grass originated from sub-Saharan tropical Africa (Clayton et al., 2013).

Elephant grass in mainly found from 10 °N to 20 °S. It is often regarded as a weed in crops.

along roadsides, waterways, wetlands, floodplain, swamps, forest edges, disturbed areas and wastelands .

(CABI, 2014; Francis, 2004). It can withstand drought conditions and is a pioneer species in arid lands such as the Galapagos Islands (CABI, 2014).

Forage management

Establishment and yields

Row width ranges from 50 to 200 cm and distance within rows is between 50 and 100 cm (Mannetje, 1992).

After planting, elephant grass grows vigorously and can reach 4 m in 3 months (Skerman et al., 1990).

Artus-Poliakoff et al., 1991).

life span of elephant grass
life span of elephant grass

Elephant grass requires high levels of fertilizer and a regular water supply (Mannetje, 1992).

Yields range from 20 to 80 t DM/ha/year under high fertilizer inputs (Francis, 2004; Skerman et al., 1990). With no, or inadequate, fertilizer, yields are in the range of 2-10 t DM/ha/year.

(Bogdan, 1977). Cuttings can be made at 45-90 day intervals, depending on location (FAO, 2015).


centro (Centrosema pubescens), perennial soybean (Neonotonia wightii) and leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala) (Mannetje, 1992).

In central Kenya, a comparison of three legumes (Desmodium intortumMacrotyloma axillareNeonotonia wightii) associated with elephant grass concluded.

(Mwangi et al., 2004). Elephant grass is sometimes intercropped with banana and cassava in home gardens (Mannetje, 1992).

Fresh grass

The ideal harvest regime depends on the cultivar, weather conditions, soil fertility, management practices.

and livestock needs.

usually 3-4 months after planting.

Well-managed elephant grass can be harvested every month in hot and wet environments, or every 2 months in drier areas.

digestibility and leaf-to-stem ratios decline.

Leaving 10-15 cm high stubble provides sufficient carbohydrate reserves for subsequent regrowth (Orodho, 2006).

Is elephant grass a perennial?

Pennisetum purpureum, often commonly called napier grass, cane grass or elephant grass, is a large, tender perennial grass native to tropical and sub-Saharan Africa but has been widely introduced to tropical and subtropical regions around world as a forage crop and ornamental grass.

How long does elephant grass live?

Elephant grass is perennial plant that can survive up to 20 years in the wild.

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