St. Augustine Grass
Stenotaphrum secundatum

Summary


Common Name

Its common name is St. Augustine grass (Bogdan), buffalo grass (Australia, Hawai`i, and South Pacific). It should not be confused with true buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides). In Hawai`i it is called manienie-haole or akiaki-haole (Deputy).

Scientific Name

The scientific name is Stenotaphrum secundatum (Walter) O. Kuntze (Chen).

Cultivars

St. Augustine cultivars 'Floratine', 'Floratam' (cinch bug resistant) and 'Floralawn' (cinch bug resistant) are used for lawns in Hawai`i (Deputy). 'Roselawn' is used for soil conservation (Bogdan).

Seed Description

Seeds are oblong, about 2 mm long (Chen).

Seedling Description

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Mature Plant Description

St. Augustine grass is a stoloniferous perennial with upright or ascending stems, very branched, 10-50 cm high. Its leaves are slightly bluish, flat, blunt, glabrous, 3-15 cm long and 4-10 mm wide. Spikes are 4-10 cm long and 3-7 mm wide (Bogdan).

Temperature

St. Augustine grass is considered a pantropical species (Bogdan). It is one of the more cold/frost tolerant of the tropical and warm temperate grasses (Chen).

Origin and Geographic Distribution

St. Augustine grass is native to North America (the shores of the Atlantic) and has subsequently been distributed extensively through Central and South America, India, Australia and the Pacific, generally in coastal areas (Bogdan) (Chen).

Ecology

St. Augustine is primarily a coastal pioneer. It occurs from sea level up to 800 m. (due to cold and frost tolerance). It grows in humid areas, preferring fertile soils, but can adapt to low fertility conditions. It grows on Florida's organic sandy soils and on alkaline soils (Chen).

Water

St. Augustine grass grows in humid areas. It tolerates short term flooding and salt spray. It does not tolerate a prolonged dry season nor soils with a shallow water table. It can adapt to sandy organic soils (Florida) or alkaline soils (Chen).

Nutrients

St. Augustine grass can grow on low fertility soil and also responds well to N and P fertilization. Herbage yields are increased by adding N (Bogdan). In lawn management, either a low or high fertility regime can be used, however overfertilization (with N) promotes excessive thatch buildup and insect problems (Deputy).

Soil pH

Optimum pH for St. Augustine grass is between 6.0 and 8.5 (Deputy). pH range: 5.0-7.0 (NRCS)

Soil Type

St. Augustine grass will grow on a wide range of soils, and is naturally adapted to sandy soils (Chen).

Shade Tolerance

St. Augustine grass is shade tolerant and produces higher yields under shade intensities as low as 40% sunlight than in full sunlight. Its productivity is maintained with 40% full sunlight (Chen).

Salinity Tolerance

St. Augustine grass has good salt tolerance but avoids highly saline sea shores (Bogdan).

Herbicide Sensitivity

Deputy reports that MSMA and CMA will cause severe damage.

Life Cycle

St. Augustine grass only flowers occasionally in the wet tropics, therefore seed production is very poor. It is generally propagated vegetatively (by planting stolons). Stolons grow quickly but it may take 5-6 months to form a complete cover. Sward formation is faster under light to moderate shade. Once established, St. Augustine outcompetes weeds (Chen).

Seeding Rate

Seeding Depth

Not applicable.

Seeding Method

Not applicable.

Seeding Dates

Not applicable.

Inoculation

Not applicable.

Seed Cost

Not applicable.

Seed Availability

Difficult to obtain. None or very little seed is produced (Bogdan).

Days to Flowering

No information is available in this database on this topic. According to Chen, St. Augustine only flowers occasionally in the wet tropics.

Days to Maturity

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Seed Production

Not applicable.

Seed Storage

Not applicable.

Growth Habit

St. Augustine grass is a stoloniferous perennial, creeping extensively by means of branched rhizomes and many noded stolons (FAO).

Maximum Height

St. Augustine grass grows to a maximum height between 10-50 cm high (Bogdan).

Root System

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Establishment

Maintenance

No information is available in this database on this topic. For information about St. Augustine lawn maintenance, refer to (Deputy).

Mowing

Incorporation

Not applicable. Not generally used as a green manure.

Harvesting

St. Augustine grass is not generally harvested.

Equipment

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Uses

Mixtures

Reports of using a St. Augustine grass/Siratro (Macroptilium atropurpureum) mixed pasture beneath a sparse coconut plantation in Vanuatu gave annual liveweight gains of 275-400 kg/ha (Chen).

Biomass

No information is available in this database on this topic.

N Contribution

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Non-N Nutrient Contribution

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Effects on Water

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Effects on Soil

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Effects on Livestock

St. Augustine grass declines in quality through its growing season. N concentrations range between 2.6% and 2.0%. Digestibility of crude protein declines from 53% to 31%. Dry matter digestibilities decline from 60% to 50%. It is palatable when young (Chen).

Pest Effects, Insects

Deputy reports the chinch bug (Blissuus leucopterus) being the major insect pest of St. Augustine in Hawai`i. Two cultivars of St. Augustine grass, 'Floratam' and 'Floralawn' are resistant to chinch bug invasion. Other insect pests include the webworm and armyworm. High levels of N fertilizer encourage insect problems.

Pest Effects, Nematodes

St. Augustine grass is root knot and reniform nematode susceptible (personal communication, Robert Joy, NRCS Hawai`i Plant Materials Center).

Pest Effects, Diseases

Brown patch and gray leaf spot disease can be a problem for St. Augustine grass lawns (Deputy). Brown patch can occur during warm, humid weather and is promoted by excessive N applications. Gray leaf spot occurs during rainy periods and is promoted by overwatering.

Pest Effects, Weeds

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Pest Effects, Vertebrates

No information is available in this database on this topic.


Uses in the Pacific Region

In Vanuatu, St. Augustine grass-siratro (Macroptilium atropurpureum DC. Urban) pastures beneath a sparse coconut plantation gave annual liveweight gains of 275-400 kg/ha. Only 1-2 head could be sustained during the growing season under a denser stand of coconuts at a 9-m. spacing (Chen).

Uses in Hawai`i

The Hawai`i Natural Resources Conservation Service Technical Guide includes St. Augustine grass. Their specification describes St. Augustine grass as follows:

Dr. J. DeFrank, UH Manoa, has a cover crop demonstration site using St. Augustine grass as a living mulch in papaya trials.


References

Bogdan, A.V. 1977. Tropical Pasture and Fodder Plants. Longman Inc., New York. pp.284-285.

Chen, C.P., 1992. Stenotaphrum secundatum (Walter) O. Kuntze. In: 't Mannetje, L. & Jones, R.M. (Editors): Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 4. Forages. Pudoc-DLO, Wageningen, the Netherlands. pp. 208-209.

Deputy, J., Hensley, D., Tavares, J., 1998. St. Augustinegrass TM-3. University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu. 2 pp.

Evans, Dale O., Joy, Robert J., & Chia, C.L., 1988. Cover Crops for Orchards in Hawaii. Hawaii Institute of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, United Stated. 16 pp.

FAO Grassland Index Web Site

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Hawai`i Field Office Technical Guide, Section IV, Code 340 "Cover and Green Manure Crop" May 1992. Pacific Islands Area Field Office Technical Guide (eFOTG) - East Area

Text last updated on 9/23/02.

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These webpages were originally generated under a grant program from Western SARE entitled "Covering New Ground: Tropical Cover Crops for Improving Soil Quality" EW98-012 (1998-2002).