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Vascular Plants of California
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Cynodon dactylon

Higher Taxonomy
Family: Poaceae (Gramineae)View DescriptionDichotomous Key
Habit: Annual to woody perennial herb; roots generally fibrous. Stem: generally round, hollow; nodes swollen, solid. Leaf: alternate, 2-ranked, generally linear, parallel-veined; sheath generally open; ligule membranous or hairy, at blade base. Inflorescence: various (of generally many spikelets). Spikelet: glumes generally 2; florets (lemma, palea, flower) 1--many; lemma generally membranous, sometimes glume-like; palea generally +- transparent, +- enclosed by lemma. Flower: generally bisexual, minute; perianth vestigial; stamens generally 3; stigmas generally 2, generally plumose. Fruit: grain, sometimes achene- or utricle-like.
Genera In Family: 650--900 genera; +- 10550 species: worldwide; greatest economic importance of any family (wheat, rice, maize, millet, sorghum, sugar cane, forage crops, ornamental, weeds; thatching, weaving, building materials). Note: Generally wind-pollinated. Achnatherum, Ampelodesmos, Hesperostipa, Nassella, Piptatherum, Piptochaetium, Ptilagrostis moved to Stipa; Elytrigia, Leymus, Pascopyrum, Pseudoroegneria, Taeniatherum to Elymus; Hierochloe to Anthoxanthum; Lolium, Vulpia to Festuca; Lycurus to Muhlenbergia; Monanthochloe to Distichlis; Pleuraphis to Hilaria; Rhynchelytrum to Melinis. The following taxa (in genera not included here), recorded in California from historical collections or reported in literature, are extirpated, lacking vouchers, or not considered naturalized: Acrachne racemosa (Roth) Ohwi, Allolepis texana (Vasey) Soderstr. & H.F. Decker, Amphibromus nervosus (Hook. f.) Baill., Axonopus affinis Chase, Axonopus fissifolius (Raddi) Kuhlm., Coix lacryma-jobi L., Cutandia memphitica (Spreng.) K. Richt., Dinebra retroflexa (Vahl) Panz., Eremochloa ciliaris (L.) Merr., Eustachys distichophylla (Lag.) Nees, Gaudinia fragilis (L.) P. Beauv., Miscanthus sinensis Andersson, Neyraudia arundinacea (L.) Henrard, Phyllostachys aurea Rivière & C. Rivière, Phyllostachys bambusoides Siebold & Zuccarini, Rottboellia cochinchinensis (Lour.) Clayton, Schedonnardus paniculatus (Nutt.) Branner & Coville, Schizachyrium cirratum (Hack.) Wooton & Standl., Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash, Themeda quadrivalvis (L.) Kuntze, Thysanolaena latifolia (Hornem.) Honda, Tribolium obliterum (Hemsl.) Renvoize, Zea mays L., Zizania palustris L. var. interior (Fassett) Dore, Zoysia japonica Steud. Paspalum pubiflorum E. Fourn., Paspalum quadrifarium Lam., are now reported for southern California (J Bot Res Inst Texas 4:761--770). See Glossary p. 30 for illustrations of general family characteristics.
eFlora Treatment Author: James P. Smith, Jr., except as noted
Scientific Editor: James P. Smith, Jr., J. Travis Columbus, Dieter H. Wilken.
Genus: CynodonView Description 

Habit: Perennial herb, mat-like, from rhizomes or stolons. Stem: +- branched. Leaf: blade short, flat, narrow, fleshy. Inflorescence: digitate; branches 2--20, spike-like, spikelets sessile, overlapping, in 2 rows along 1 side of axis. Spikelet: bisexual, strongly compressed; glumes +- equal, 1-veined, awn 0; floret 1(2), upper floret vestigial, breaking above glumes; lemma keeled, 3-veined, awn 0; palea = lemma, 2-veined.
Species In Genus: 8--10 species: tropics, warm temperate Eurasia, Africa. Etymology: (Greek: dog tooth, from hard scales on rhizomes) Note: Cynodon transvaalensis Burtt Davy [Cynodon transvalensis, orth. var.], Cynodon plectostachyus (K. Schum.) Pilg. occasionally reported, not naturalized.
eFlora Treatment Author: James P. Smith, Jr.
Reference: Barkworth 2003 FNANM 25:235--241
Unabridged Reference: Harlan et al. 1970 Okla State Univ Agric Exp Sta Bull B-673:1--37
Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.
Habit: Perennial herb from rhizomes or stolons. Stem: generally erect, 1--4 dm. Leaf: ligule white-hairy; blade < 6 cm, glabrous or upper surface hairy. Inflorescence: branches generally 4--7, 2.5--5 cm. Spikelet: +- 2 mm; glumes +- 1.5 mm, generally +- purple; lemma +- 2 mm, boat-shaped, acute, keel, margins hairy; palea keels glabrous. Chromosomes: 2n=36.
Ecology: Disturbed sites; Elevation: < 1600 m. Bioregional Distribution: CA (exc MP); Distribution Outside California: most of United States, Canada, warm temperate, tropics; native to Africa. Toxicity: TOXIC: important pollen source in hay fever; may produce contact dermatitis. Flowering Time: Jun--Aug Note: Cult for lawns, forage.
Jepson eFlora Author: James P. Smith, Jr.
Reference: Barkworth 2003 FNANM 25:235--241
Index of California Plant Names (ICPN; linked via the Jepson Online Interchange)
Weed listed by Cal-IPC

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Botanical illustration including Cynodon dactylon

botanical illustration including Cynodon dactylon


Citation for this treatment: James P. Smith, Jr. 2012, Cynodon dactylon, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on June 24, 2021.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2021, Jepson eFlora,, accessed on June 24, 2021.

Cynodon dactylon
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© 2008 Keir Morse
Cynodon dactylon
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© 2001 Tony Morosco
Cynodon dactylon
click for enlargement
© 2008 Keir Morse
Cynodon dactylon
click for enlargement
© 2008 Keir Morse
Cynodon dactylon
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© 2011 Barry Breckling
Cynodon dactylon
click for enlargement
© 2011 Barry Breckling

More photos of Cynodon dactylon in CalPhotos

Geographic subdivisions for Cynodon dactylon:
CA (exc MP)
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map of distribution 1
(Note: any qualifiers in the taxon distribution description, such as 'northern', 'southern', 'adjacent' etc., are not reflected in the map above, and in some cases indication of a taxon in a subdivision is based on a single collection or author-verified occurence).


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Data provided by the participants of the  Consortium of California Herbaria.
View all CCH records
All markers link to CCH specimen records. The original determination is shown in the popup window.
Blue markers indicate specimens that map to one of the expected Jepson geographic subdivisions (see left map). Purple markers indicate specimens collected from a garden, greenhouse, or other non-wild location.
Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues.

CCH collections by month

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa, if there are more than 1 infraspecific taxon in CA.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time (fruiting time in some monocot genera).