Urochloa maxima is described as a tufted perennial, often with a short creeping rhizome, variable 60-200cm high, leaf blades up to 35mm wide tapering to a fine point; panicle 12-40cm long, open spikelets 3-3.5mm long, obtuse, green or purplish, glumes unequal, the lower one being one-third to one fourth as long as the spikelet, lower floret usually male or empty depending on the variety. Upper floret (seed) distinctly transversely wrinkled lemma and palea. The grain is about 2mm long. (Skerman and Riveros, 1990; Bogdan, 1977).
Guinea grass is a very variable species. Many distinct types occur naturally in Africa and about a dozen varieties have been named. It spreads very slowly by seed but needs fertile soil to dominate. In the wet tropics weeds can quickly dominate guinea grass pastures unless pastures are well managed (Hare, M., pers. comm., 2003). Guineagrass, is reported to tolerate periods of drought, grazing, low pH, shade, slope, virus, but not waterlogging, and weeds. Will not withstand long periods of severe desiccation or long periods of hard continuous grazing. This grass is of primary economic importance in many tropical countries, including East Africa, Hawai‘i, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Southeast Asia and South America (James A. Duke. 1983). It can survive quick-moving fires which do not harm the underground roots (Tan, Ria. 2001).
Guinea grass is a most productive forage grass in tropical America and South East Asia, valuable for pasture, green-forage, hay, and silage. Reported to be diuretic and preventative, guinea grass is a folk remedy for tympanitis (Duke and Wain, 1981, cited in James A. Duke. 1983 ). It's seeds can provide food for birds, the long leaves can also provide nesting material for birds, (Tan, Ria. 2001). Guinea grass is considered as a suitable plant to stop soil erosion on slopes (it has dense root mats) while providing valuable fodder (Tan, Ria. 2001).
Ranging from Tropical Dry to Wet Forest Life Zones, guinea grass is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 6.4 to 42.9 (mean of 40 cases = 18.5), annual temperature of 12.2 to 27.8°C (mean of 40 cases = 23.4), and pH of 3.5-4.3 to 8.4 (mean of 33 cases = 5.9) (Duke, 1978, 1979. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished. Cited in James A. Duke. 1983.). Grows naturally in open grasslands, usually forming colonies under or near trees and shrubs, frequent in woodland bush thickets, and on abandoned cultivated land, fields and on waste lands, from sea level to 1800m in East Africa. Suited to areas with annual rainfall from 87 to 100cm. With sufficient moisture, plants grow extremely rapidly, providing much biomass. Grows well on a wide variety of well-drained soils. Does not thrive in areas subject to prolonged waterlogging or flooding, nor on saline soils. Not resistant to frost. Somewhat tolerant to shade and grows under trees or in stands of low bush. Grows in moderately dry ground and is drought-resistant, but will not tolerate dry periods longer than 4 months.
Seeds profusely but seeds are of low germination, often empty and do not survive long. The seeds are dispersed short distances by wind. Fire will sweep through stands of this grass but it regenerates rapidly from underground rhizomes (Hare. M., pers. comm., 2003).
In South Africa, it is suspected to cause a sheep disease (\"dikoor\"), perhaps in conjunction with a smut. The plant is said to cause fatal colic if eaten too wet or in excess. Traces of HCN occur in stems and leaves, more in the roots.
Introduced to almost all tropical countries as a source of animal fodder. (Tan, Ria. 2001)
Principal source: Pacific Island Ecosystem at Risk (PIER, 2002)
Compiler: IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
Review: Dr. Michael Hare Faculty of Agriculture, Ubon Ratchathani University, Warin Chamrab, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand
Publication date: 2006-01-26
Recommended citation: Global Invasive Species Database (2017) Species profile: Urochloa maxima. Downloaded from http://www.iucngisd.org/gisd/species.php?sc=398 on 20-09-2017.