Galapagos Species Checklist

Pennisetum purpureum


Domain Eukaryota
Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Liliopsida (= Monocotyledoneae)
Order Cyperales
Family Poaceae
Genus Pennisetum

Pennisetum purpureum  Schumach.


English common name: Elephant grass, napier grass

Spanish common name: pasto elefante

Local name: pasto elefante

Taxonomic comments: Syn.: Amphochaeta exaltata Andersson, Pennisetum exaltatum (Andersson) Hook.f. ex Jacks. fide Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew & Missouri Botanical Garden (2010)

Name status: Accepted name; taxon occurs in Galapagos.

Description: Elephant grass is a tall, 2-5 m high, perennial grass. It grows in loose tussocks with short rhizomes. Reproduction is mainly vegetative via rhizomes. The grass is very resistant to drought and provides poor quality forrage for cattle.

A perennial grass that can grow up to 6 m in height. Reproduction is primarily vegetative via horizontal stems that produce roots. The grass is drought resistant and used as fodder for livestock.

Year of first record: 1966

Last updated: 16 Oct 2017


  • In
  • Na

  • Ac
  • Cu
  • Er
  • Es

    Taxon introduced for agricultural or domestic use; naturalized in the wild.

  • Ic
  • AcQ
    Questionable Accidental
  • NaQ
    Questionable Native


Galapagos island groups: Floreana, Isabela, San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz.

Floreana, Isabela, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, originally from tropical Africa.

Preference for altitude zone in Galapagos: Humid zone.

Native range: Tropical Africa

Distribution classification: Eutropical.

Please be aware that this distribution map is automatically generated from database records (CDF and external specimens, literature records, and observations) and may not accurately reflect the currently-known distribution for all species.

General Ecology

Habitat preferences: Prefers open areas at mid-elevations with full sunlight. Often found in and around cultivated and previously cultivated areas. Tolerates a wide variety of soil types from poorly-drained clay soils to highly-drained sandy soils.

Trophic role: Primary producer (autotroph: an organism that does not require organic matter to feed on but is capable to produce its own energy).

Growth form: Perennial herbs.

Reproductive biology: Reproduction is primarily vegetative via rhizomes that produce roots. Elephant grass can also effectively reproduce by seeds, but is often inconsistent in seed production and seeds have a high rate of inviability.

Reproduction mode: Predominantly asexual (reproduction mostly through asexual means, rarely becoming fertile).

Dispersal mechanism: Wind dispersed.

Dispersal propagule: Seed.
Disperses with seeds, but may also propagate via rhizomes and cuttings.

Economic use: Used as fodder for livestock.

Invasion Ecology

Aggressive status: Transformer (An introduced species that is in the process of drastically, fundamentally and often irreversibly changing natural habitat.).

Form of introduction: Intentional introduction.

Impact in Galapagos: This species forms dense thickets that are difficult to penetrate and exclude most other vegetation. It is cited as a major problem in the Galápagos due to the vast areas which it occupies. However, it can also prevent other weeds from germinating and planting of this grass can be useful as an intermediary step in the forest restoration projects as it can be removed later with grass specific herbicides.

Known pest elsewhere: Extensive

Impact elsewhere: This species forms dense stands, which are hard for other species to germinate through.

Persistence mechanisms: Elephant grass can resprout from both cuttings and rhizomes. If all cuttings and rhizomes are not completely removed from the soil, regrowth can occur.


Control methods elsewhere: Mechanical & Chemical: Cutting/mowing or burning is effective if followed up with grass-specific herbicide treatment of regrowth. Mechanical: Frequent mowing can lead to replacement of elephant grass by other grasses. Chemical: Grass-specific herbicides are useful for its control.


Temperature tolerance: Wide range (adapted to a wide range of temperatures).

Continentality: Continental (Distribution of a terrestrial species far away from the ocean.).

Light tolerance: Heliophytic (an indicator of moderately light-exposed habitats).

Precipitation preference: Wide range (adapted to a wide range of rainfall).

Adaptation to substrate moisture: Wide range (adapted to a wide range of substrate moisture).

Exposure tolerance: Wide range (adapted to a wide range of light-, rain-, wind-exposure).


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