Pennisetum purpureum

Common Name(s): Napier grass, elephant grass

Non-Native to Florida

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

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Video Transcript

Elephant grass, napier grass – Pennisetum purpureum

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.

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.



More Resources

View more information and pictures about elephant grass, as contained in the Langeland/Burks book, Identification & Biology of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas.

View the herbarium specimen image from the University of Florida Herbarium Digital Imaging Projects.

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1. Identification and Biology of Nonnative Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas – Second Edition,
by K.A. Langeland, H.M. Cherry, et al. University of Florida-IFAS Publication # SP 257. 2008.

2. Strangers in Paradise, Impact and Management of Nonindigenous Species in Florida, Chapter 2: Florida’s Invasion by Nonindigenous Plants: History, Screening, and Regulation, by D.R.
Gordon and K.P. Thomas, pp. 21-37. Island Press, Washington, DC, 1997.

3. Integrated Management of Nonnative Plants in Natural Areas of Florida, by K. A. Langeland, J. A. Ferrell, B. Sellers, G. E. MacDonald, and R. K. Stocker. University of Florida-IFAS Publication # SP 242. 2011.

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