Cenchrus clandestinus


Cenchrus: From the Greek cenchros which means millet

Common Name(s)

kikuyu grass


Cenchrus clandestinus (Hochst. ex Chiov.) Morrone



Flora Category

Vascular - Exotic

Structural Class



Pennisetum clandestinum Chiov.


Terrestrial. A coastal plant of high fertile sites (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995). A plant that prefers warm, moist and fertile soils, but is drought resistant (Department of Conservation 1996). A plant of sand dunes (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995). A plant that is a common dominant pasture grass (Department of Conservation 1996). A plant that is invasive in coastal areas (Department of Conservation 1996).


Creeping, perennial, hairy, mat-forming grass. Stolons very long, climbing supported occ to 2+ m, rooting frequently. Rhizomes long. Leaves alternate, 5-40 x 3-9 cm, bright green to yellow-green, soft and drooping, sparsely hairy above and below, blades folded, ligule a fringe of hairs, auricle missing. Sheath pale green to white, with soft 2-4 mm hairs. Seedhead of 2-3 tiny spikelets in upper leaf sheaths, wispy anthers and stigmas

Similar Taxa

The creeping aggressive growth form is familiar to most people especially in Northern areas. It is most similar to Stenotaphrum secundatum (buffalo grass) but lacks the distinctive seed heads of this species. In fact the flowers of kikuyu are small and cryptic so are rarely seen.


flowers are very small and reduced.

Flower Colours

Red / Pink,White

Year Naturalised



trop & S Africa, E. Africa, N. Africa, Kenya.

Reason for Introduction


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Perennial. The plant reproduces vegetatively through the resprouting of rhizomatous fragments (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995; Department of Conservation 1996). Plant produces seed in NZ (Department of Conservation 1996). Seed is wind dispersed (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995). Dispersal is aided by grazing animals (seed?) (Department of Conservation 1996).


The plant that is very tolerant of drought, slightly tolerant of frost and tolerant of poor drainage (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995). Physical damage and grazing result in resrouting from underground rhizomes (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995). Requires high soil fertility (Atkinson 1997).

This page last updated on 25 Aug 2015