Pennisetum purpureum

Napier grass, elephant grass

Nonnative to FloridaFISC Category 1

Species Overview

Origin: Africa1
Introduction to Florida: 1915 (ornamental, agriculture)2

Napier grass is not native to Florida. It is also known as elephant grass. There are more than 100 species of Pennisetum, some of which are cultivated for grain. Napier grass was introduced to Florida as a forage crop. It is found in swamps and bottomlands and often infests canals, ditches, and irrigated areas of southern Florida.

Species Characteristics

Napier grass is a large perennial grass with erect stems that grow to 15 feet tall. The leaves are flat and strap-like, up to an inch-and-a-half wide, and several feet long. They have fine-toothed margins, and sparse hairs on the leaf surface. The ligule is composed of long hairs. The inflorescence of napier grass is a cylindrical spike at the top of the stem. It is greenish-tan, 5 to 12 inches long, and about an inch in diameter. The spike is densely packed with flowering spikelets. Many of the spikelets have very long bristles. Napier grass is a very large grass that grows to 15 feet tall. Its leaves are flat and strap-like, and have fine-toothed margins and sparse hairs. The cylindrical flower spike is at the top of the stem and has numerous long bristles.