Digitaria abyssinica (Hochst. ex A. Rich.) Stapf
Panicum abyssinicum Hochst ex ARich; African couchgrass
Life   Plantae   Monocotyledoneae   Poaceae   Digitaria


Associates · map
FamilyScientific name @ source (records)
Pucciniaceae  Puccinia oahuensis @ BPI (1)
Ustilaginaceae  Sporisorium ugandense @ BPI (1)

Ustilago digitariae @ BPI (2)

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Digitaria abyssinica (A. Rich.) Stapf




D. vestita Fig. & De Not. var. scalarum Schweinf.; D. scalarum (Schweinf.) Chiov.

Common names

African couch grass (Tanzania), couch finger grass, Dunn's finger grass (South Africa), thangari (Kenya).


Perennial with slender long rhizomes and erect culms up to 30 cm high; leaf blades 3-5 mm wide, but on occasions up to 7-8 mm. Panicle of two to nine racemes, often whorled and sub-erect, 2.5-8 cm long with broadly elliptic, completely glabrous obtuse spikelets 2 mm long (Napper, 1965). The rhizomes form a dense mat beneath the soil surface, extending to depths greater than 1 m, and may twine around the roots of perennial crops (Terry, 1974). It differs from Cynodon dactylon in the vegetative stage in having an obvious membranous ligule where the leaf-blade joins the sheath (Ivens, 1967).


Native to Zaire and eastern tropical Africa.

Altitude range

Sea-level to 3 000 m.

Rainfall requirements

It prefers more humid areas. Common near Bukoba on shores of Lake Victoria, west Tanzania. Rainfall should be in excess of 500 mm.

Tolerance to herbicides

Terry (1974) found glyphosate (Round-up) at 2 and 4 kg/ha and at split applications of 1 + 1 and 2 + 2 kg/ha gave very good control of D. abyssinica foliage but 1 kg/ha was less effective. Asulam at 2,4 and 8 kg/ ha gave poor control. Dalapon at 5 kg/ha gave moderate control which was improved by 0.5 kg/ha paraquat applied 51 days after treatment with dalapon. Prolific growth of annual broad-leaved weeds occurred where D. abyssinica had been controlled with glyphosate and dalapon and these would need subsequent control. Richardson (1967) obtained success in Kenya sisal plantations with heavy applications of sodium trichloro-acetate (Na-TCA). It was successfully controlled in Zambia coffee plantations by running poultry intensively (Chippendall & Crook, 1976).

Dry-matter and green-matter yields

Richardson (1967) reported fresh weight yields of D. abyssinica from sisal land of 36 t/ha which caused substantial fibre losses in the sisal.


Fairly palatable when young, but unproductive. It was accepted by Ankole bullocks in the wet season in Uganda, but not in the dry season (Harrington & Pratchett, 1972).

Chemical analysis and digestibility

Dougall and Bogdan (1960) record 14.7 percent crude protein, 29 percent crude fibre, 9.5 percent ash, 3.8 percent ether extract and 43 percent nitrogen-free extract in fresh material at the early bloom stage. Verboom and Brunt (1970) recorded 8.69 percent crude protein, 31.48 percent crude fibre, 3 percent ether extract, 6.17 percent ash and 50.66 percent nitrogen-free- extract from flowering material in Zambia.

Natural habitat

Grassland, and as a weed in plantation crops.

Genetics and reproduction

2n=36 (Fedorov, 1974).


The grass is often a troublesome weed in cultivations, in plantations and in orchards. It has been planted on the slopes of the Cape Peninsula in Africa to control erosion (Chippendall, 1955). The most troublesome of all African weeds (Ivens, 1967). It is, however, used in leys at Nemalonge, Uganda, in cotton rotations.

Further reading

Ivens, 1967.

Value for erosion control

It has been planted on the slopes of the Cape Peninsula in Africa to control erosion (Chippendall, 1955).

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You are here: Home / Plant Profile

Digitaria abyssinica (Hochst. ex A. Rich.) Stapf
African couchgrass

General Information
Symbol: DIAB
Group: Monocot
Family: Poaceae
Duration: Perennial
Growth Habit : Graminoid
Native Status : HI   I
Other Common Names: Abyssinian finger grass
Data Source and Documentation
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Native Status:
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Symbol Scientific Name
DISC5 Digitaria scalarum (Schweinf.) Chiov.
DIVE7 Digitaria vestita Fig. & De Not.


Click on a scientific name below to expand it in the PLANTS Classification Report.
Rank Scientific Name and Common Name
Kingdom Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class Liliopsida – Monocotyledons
Subclass Commelinidae
Order Cyperales
Family Poaceae ⁄ Gramineae – Grass family
Genus Digitaria Haller – crabgrass
Species Digitaria abyssinica (Hochst. ex A. Rich.) Stapf – African couchgrass

Subordinate Taxa

This plant has no children

Legal Status

Noxious Weed Information
This plant is listed by the U.S. federal government or a state. Common names are from state and federal lists. Click on a place name to get a complete noxious weed list for that location, or click here for a composite list of all Federal and State Noxious Weeds .
United States : Noxious weed Digitaria scalarum African couch grass Noxious weed
Alabama Digitaria scalarum African couch grass Class A noxious weed
California Digitaria scalarum African couch grass Quarantine
Florida Digitaria scalarum African couchgrass, fingergrass Noxious weed
Massachusetts Prohibited African couch grass Prohibited
Minnesota Digitaria scalarum African couch grass Prohibited noxious weed
North Carolina Digitaria scalarum bluecouch Class A noxious weed
Oregon Digitaria scalarum African couch grass Quarantine
South Carolina Digitaria scalarum African couchgrass, fingergrass Plant pest
Vermont Digitaria scalarum African couch grass Class A noxious weed

Wetland Status

Interpreting Wetland Status

Related Links

More Accounts and Images
ARS Germplasm Resources Information Network (DIAB)
Integrated Taxonomic Information System (DIAB)
Integrated Taxonomic Information System (DISC5)
The Grass Manual on the Web - Treatment (DIAB)
The Grass Manual on the Web - Illustration (DIAB)
The Grass Manual on the Web - Map (DIAB)



Source Large Mammals Small Mammals Water Birds Terrestrial Birds


Source Large Mammals Small Mammals Water Birds Terrestrial Birds

Description of Values

Value Class Food Cover

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