Axonopus compressus

buffalo grass


Axonopus compressus

(Sw.) P.Beauv. 1812

pronounced: ax-ON-oh-puss kom-PRESS-uss

(Poaceae — the grass family)


common names: buffalo grass, broad-leaf carpet grass

Axonopus is derived from two Greek words, αξων (axon), an axle, axis, and πους (pous) a foot, referring to the racemes arising from a common point (digitate); compressus is Latin for pressed together, i.e., close, narrow. This is the broad-leafed grass so often used for lawns in North Queensland, and it should be stressed that ‘Buffalo’ is purely a local name for the grass, and that there are many other grasses, among them other lawn grasses, more properly referred to as ‘Buffalo’ or ‘Buffel’.

This grass forms a coarse-textured, fairly dense low-growing turf with a distinctive darkish green colour. The leaves have a shiny, waxy appearance, with crinkles in them. It is generally quite shallow-rooted, and relatively intolerant of drought. If it dries out during the dry season, when it subsequently rains, or the lawn is watered, the older leaves die and do not green up. This gives the lawn a half green – half dead appearance. The grass is best adapted to acid, sandy or sandy-loam soils of low fertility.

Although the grass does seed if left unmown for long enough, seed is not often available commercially, and most gardeners plant buffalo grass by runners dug from where the grass abuts on edges, trees, etc. It is, by the way, a native of the USA, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and the northern parts of South America, found in humid and sub-humid woodland and savannah, flourishing in moist soils. It has also become widely naturalized in the humid tropics and sub-tropics, especially west tropical Africa, South Africa, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia and the Pacific Islands. It is used as permanent pasture, ground cover and turf, particularly in shaded situations. Being low-growing, it is not particularly useful for any sort of fodder conservation.

This is a rhizomatous or stoloniferous perennial that can grow to about 30 cm tall. The leaves are glabrous, flat, 4–10 mm wide and often folded along the midrib. The inflorescence is erect and slender, composed of 2–3 spreading spikes on a short axis. Here, we rarely see the flowers, as the grass is used exclusively for lawns, and is frequently mown.


Photographs taken 2010, Picnic Bay
Page last updated 16th October 2018