Taxonomic name: Paspalum vaginatum Sw.
Synonyms: Digitaria foliosa Lag. , Digitaria tristachya (Leconte) Schult., Digitaria vaginata (Sw.) Magnier, Panicum littorale (R.Br.) Kuntze, Panicum vaginatum (Sw.) Gren. & Godr., Paspalum gayanum E. Desv., Paspalum boryanum C. Presl, Paspalum distichum L. subsp. vaginatum (Sw.) Maire, Paspalum distichum L. var. littorale (R.Br.) F.M.Bailey, Paspalum distichum L. var. nanum (Döll) Stapf, Paspalum distichum L. var. tristachyum (Leconte) A.W.Wood, Paspalum distichum L. var. vaginatum (Sw.) Griseb., Paspalum foliosum (Lag.) Kunth, Paspalum gayanum E.Desv., Paspalum inflatum A. Rich., Paspalum jaguaense León, Paspalum kleineanum J.Presl, Paspalum littorale R. Br., Paspalum reimarioides Chapm., Paspalum squamatum Steud., Paspalum tristachyum Leconte, Paspalum vaginatum Sw. subsp. nanum (Döll) Loxton, Paspalum vaginatum Sw. var. littorale (R.Br.) Trin. ex Büse, Paspalum vaginatum Sw. var. nanum Döll, Paspalum vaginatum Sw. var. reimarioides Chapm., Rottboellia uniflora A. Cunn., Sanguinaria vaginata (Sw.) Bubani
Common names: biscuit grass (English), capim-paturá (Portuguese-Brazil), grama de costa (Spanish), grama de mar (Spanish), grama-rasteira (Portuguese-Brazil), gramilla (Spanish), gramilla blanca (Spanish), gramón (Spanish), herbe rampante (French), jointgrass (English-USA), kambutu (Fijian-Fiji), knot grass (English), knottweed (English), matie (Marquesas Islands), mauku ta‘atai (Cook Islands), mauku vairakau (Cook Islands), mosie kalalahi (Niue), mutia (Samoa), mutie (Marquesas Islands), salt grass (English), saltwater couch (English), saltwater paspalum (English), seashore crowngrass (English-USA), seashore grass (English), seashore paspalum (English), silt grass (English), swamp couch (English), water couch (English-Australia), wujoojkatejukjuk (Marshall Islands)
Organism type: grass
Paspalum vaginatum (seashore paspalum) is a North American grass which now has a pantropical distribution. It has been widely used for landscaping and revegetation and is a common turf grass on golf courses. Paspalum vaginatum has naturalised in coastal salt marshes where it changes the composition of vegetation and in some cases dominates, impacting on fauna communities and estuarine hydrology.
Seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) is a perennial stoloniferous grass. It's stolons range from slender and wiry to stout and somewhat fleshy. Its culms are slightly compressed, between 2.5 and 5 (-10) dm long. The sheaths of P. vaginatum are often keeled, and have small auricles. Wagner et al. (1999; in PIER, 2007) describes the grass as follows:
"Sheaths often keeled, with small auricles; ligule membranous, ca. 0.5 mm long, with a ring of soft white hairs behind it, the hairs sometimes up to 5 mm long; blades usually stiff, ascending at an uniform angle, 2.5-15cm long, 3-8 mm wide at base, narrower than summit of sheath, apex attenuate, involute, base abruptly contracted. Racemes 2 (-5), opposite or closely approximate, at first erect and appressed together, usually spreading or reflexed at maturity, often subfalcate, 1.5-7.5cm long, rachis naked at base, 1-2 (-2.5) mm wide, triangular, flexuous, margins minutely scabrous; spikelets pale, solitary, imbricate, oblong, 3-4.5 mm long, 1.2-1.5 mm wide; first glume rarely developed, second glume and first lemma equal, thin, 3-7-nerved, the midnerve of both usually obscure, glabrous; first lemma usually transversely undulate, sometimes conspicuously so; second lemma convex, usually 3-5-nerved, apex with a few short, stiff cilia, otherwise glabrous; palea flat, 0-2-nerved, similar to lemma. Caryopsis narrowly obovate, slightly concavo-convex, 2.5-3 mm long, subacute"
coastland, estuarine habitats, wetlands
Seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) can be found in the coastal salt marshes of the tropics and sub-tropics (USDA-GRIN 2007). In various islands in the Pacific region, P. vaginatum is found in coastal sunny areas, near beaches and sometimes on the beach, in brackish marshy areas and mangrove swamps (PIER, 2007). It is best suited to compacted inorganic marsh soils of moderate salinity (USDA-NRCS, 2007), and is tolerant of drought, salt, a wide range of soil pH, extended periods of low light intensity, and flooding or extended wet periods (Haynes et al. undated).
Seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) can alter ecosystems in a number of ways. It can form dense monospecific groundcover in brackish marshes and estuaries, and alter the composition of native species. This can lead to changes in invertebrate communities - in the Galapagos it is associated with a move from aquatic to more terrestrial communities (Siemens, 2005), and this in turn can impact on foraging habitat and food resources for waterbirds. In addition, invasion of P. vaginatum is associated with an increase in sediment accumulation, changing hydrology in New Zealand estuaries (Shaw and Allen, 2003; Graeme, 2005a, b).
Haynes et al. undated state that seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) makes a high-quality turfgrass because of its minimal fertility and pesticide requirements. Furthermore, its tolerance of a wide range of conditions such as drought, saline or recycled water, varying soil pH, extended periods of low light intensity, flooding or extended wet periods as well as its resistance to insects, disease and wear mean it can be planted and grow where other species would not survive. It is frequently used in landscaping and as a turf grass in golf courses.
P. vaginatum has historically been used for erosion control, as forage food for cattle and horses, by wild geese for feed. It is also used for wetland restoration and site reclamation on oil and gas well sites (Gates, 2003). Loch et al. 2003 suggest that P. vaginatum is suitable for use as a part of the management of salt-affected lands in Australia. Again, its saline-tolerant and overall survivability traits make it stand out from other turfgrassses.
Native range: Seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) is native to North America, including the Caribbean and Hawaii (ITIS, 2007).
Known introduced range: It is now pantropical in distribution, being widely distributed in warm temperate to tropical sea coasts and brackish marshes worldwide (PIER, 2007).
Introduction pathways to new locations
Preventative measures: A Risk Assessment of Paspalum vaginatum for Hawaii and other Pacific islands was prepared by Dr. Curtis Daehler (UH Botany) with funding from the Kaulunani Urban Forestry Program and US Forest Service. The alien plant screening system is derived from Pheloung et al. (1999) with minor modifications for use in Pacific islands (Daehler et al. 2004). The result is a score of 7 and a recommendation of: "Likely to cause significant ecological or economic harm in Hawaii and on other Pacific Islands as determined by a high WRA score, which is based on published sources describing species biology and behavior in Hawaii and/or other parts of the world."
Mechanical control and grazing is not an option, as plants will resprout from fragments. Shaw and Allen (2003) recommend that vegetation development be monitored with permanent plots before control is considered. The information available for control of cord grass (Spartina spp.) in New Zealand is probably also applicable to P. vaginatum. Please follow these links to view complete profiles of Spartina alterniflora and Spartina anglica, including management information.
seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) propagates asexually using its stolons and rhizomes. It more often propagates through sprigs, plugs and sod than through seeds. (USDA-NRCS, 2007)
Compiled by: IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) with support from ASB Community Trust, New Zealand
Last Modified: Thursday, 17 April 2008