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Buffelgrass Biology

Photo of clump of buffelgrass

Photo of buffelgrass close up

Photo of buffelgrass stalk

Common Names
buffelgrass, pasto buffel, zacate buffel
Cenchrus ciliaris
Life Span
Growth Form
Graminoid (grass)
Dense, cylindrical spikes of purplish bristles 0.75-5 inches long (0.25-0.5 inches wide). The bristles are slender and wavy at the upper (distal) half. There are no awns on the spikelets.
Flat, 3-11 inches long (less than 0.25 inches wide), and scabrous (rough to the touch); hairy ligules (tiny whitish/blond hairs visible at the base of the leaf blade where it diverges from the leaf sheath, which is the portion of the leaf that 'wraps' the stem).
Growth Habit
Bunch grass, all stems grow from a knotty base. The tough, clumped plants can grow to over 3.5 feet tall, and mature plants typically grow to 3-4 feet in diameter.
Deep, generally reaching from 6-8 feet into soil (sometimes up to 10 feet)
Seeds and rhizomes. Seeds are readily dispersed via wind, water, animal fur, and on clothing and footwear.
Growth Period
It grows in areas with warm, frost-free winters and a summer rainy season with 6 to 24 inches of rainfall a year. Generally starts growth in late winter, flowers from spring through fall.
Road rights-of-way, agricultural areas, disturbed sites, vacant lots, range and grasslands, south-facing mountain slopes, and riparian zones. Occurs in all soil textures but is most common in sandy soils. Primarily a warm-season grass (C-4 grass), buffelgrass growing below 3,000 feet elevation can green-up and flower after almost any rain event. Buffelgrass does not tolerate extended flooding or subfreezing temperatures for extended periods.
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