Better Pastures for the Tropics - banner


Elephant grass
(Pennisetum purpureum)

Elephant grass - illustration  


  • very tall clump grass
  • highly productive with good fertility
  • planted vegetatively
  • less suitable for grazing.

Pennisteum purpureum Sehumach - 1 habit of flowering plant; 2 spikelet surrounded by bristles.


Elephant grass (Napier grass) is probably the most productive grass under high levels of nitrogen fertiliser. It produces broad leaves on thick, cane-like stems up to 3.5 metres high, has short stout underground stems, and these spread to form a stool up to 1 m across.

Elephant grass has been used mainly as green chop for dairy cows, but is a favourite grass for cut-and-carry systems in developing countries. If effectively grazed and slashed occasionally, it can be kept in a dense leafy state, not growing much above 1.2 m. Because seed is of poor quality, elephant grass is planted vegetatively using stem pieces with four or five nodes on 1 metre squares.

It was grown mainly on deep loam or scrub soils in high rainfall coastal districts or on tablelands, but its large root system allows it to tolerate drought on deeper alluvial soils in areas with rainfall down to 900 mm. It cannot stand flooding or waterlogging. Although mainly summer-growing, young shoots are produced in winter, protected from frost by its height.

Capricorn variety was selected for superior yields of dense foliage, while being late flowering, and palatable to stock.

Bana grass is a strong stemmed variety commonly grown in a single row around horticultural crops as a wind break in southern Queensland.

Creator: Ian Partridge
Date created: 03 April  1998  Revised:15 January 2003

Better Pastures home page