Bahia Grass

Latin Name: Paspalum notatum
Common Family Name: Grass Family
Latin Family Name: Poaceae = Gramineae

Other Names: Highway grass

Origin: Native to South America, but now spread throughout all of Latin America, the West Indies, Hawaii, and the southeastern U.S.

Biology: A warm season perennial that reproduces by both seeds and rhizomes. It grows quickly to form thick mats over the soil and is extremely invasive outside of landscaped areas, or areas of roadside or pasture where it may be planted as a low maintenance turf.

Identification: Mature growth is mat-forming, with tall stems with terminal seed heads growing above the vegetation. Leaves are somewhat folded and generally smooth on both upper and lower surfaces. A short ligule is present at the base of the leaf, and the bases of the stems are often reddish to violet in color. The seed heads grow as upright spikes, terminating with 2, or rarely 3 branches, typically forming a distinct ā€œVā€. The flowers form 2 rows along the branch on the lower side.

Characteristics Important in Control: Herbicide control with a systemic material is usually needed, to ensure the extensive roots and rhizomes are killed.

Bahia grass is a warm season course grass that grows well along the southern coastline, in Florida and southern California. This grass is normally grown from seed or sod and possesses excellent tolerance to drought, insect and disease infestations. It is normally light green in color, but will turn several shades darker when fertilizer is applied. It grows vigorously and may require more frequent mowing than other warm season grasses during the summer months. It grows very well on sandy or infertile soils, but will not perform well if the soil is too acidic.

It’s advantage as a warm season grass is in its’ ability to withstand drought conditions and the fact that it is not prone to die-back caused by insects or disease. Establishing a lawn or pasture is a bit slower than most and will take several months to produce an excellent ground cover, but once established it is durable and will withstand moderate traffic. Bahia grass is a bit unusual in that it’s root system may extend seven to nine feet into the ground. This characteristic is what provides it with it’s exceptional drought resistance. Another advantage of Bahia grass is that it grows as well in the shade as it does in full sun.

A properly maintained Bahia lawn will generally crowd out weeds which is the preferred method of weed control as Bahia grass does not respond well to herbicides often used to control unwanted intrusions. The fact is that weed control herbicides may in fact kill or retard healthy Bahia grass growth so one should be judicious in herbicide applications. If a Bahia turf begins to become a little yellow it is a sign that an iron nutrient needs to be added to the soil. This generally will occur during the spring or fall and an application of this element will return the grass to a pleasing light green color.

As with other grasses there are several varieties of Bahia grass that have been developed to suit local climatic conditions. The Argentine variety is well suited for growth in the deep south while the Pensacola variety is generally suited to regions further north which may be susceptible to frost or cool spells.

The Bahia grasses are great choices for areas where warmer season grasses thrive and will provide a lush covering of turf.

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