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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - June 14, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Distinguishing Bermuda grass from Buffalo grass
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Dick Davis

QUESTION:

Is Bermuda grass taking over my Buffalo grass lawn? I recently sodded a small area of Buffalo Grass 'Prairie' (last fall). It's doing beautifully, or so I think. There are stolons running and reaching all over the place. How can I tell if these are Buffalo grass stolons or stolons of the nasty, nasty Bermuda grass??

ANSWER:

Distinguishing between the stolons of the two species is difficult unless there are flowers present. Both show variable "hairiness" around the nodes and leaf sheaths so this feature is not going to be definitive. The nodes on buffalograss tend to be a bit more swollen with several leaves emerging from them instead of one or a very few; however, if you don't have stolons from both species for comparison, this is going to be difficult to determine. The flowers, however, are very different. Bermuda has a windmill-like infloresence with 2 to 7 branches. Buffalo usually has separate male and female plants. The male flowers are flag-like banners standing above the leaf blades and the female flowers are somewhat hidden amongst the leaves, rounded and burr-like, but not spiny. If you see any bermuda flowers, you can pull up that clump and all attached runners, and then have these as a sample to compare for further control efforts.

Here are a few "visuals" to help you. Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss), which has just had its botanical name changed from Buchloe dactyloides, has both pistillate (female) plants and staminate (male) plants. Here are more photos of buffalograss. Cynodon dactylon (Bermuda grass) has both the male and female flowers (perfect flowers) on a single plant. Here is the line drawing for the Cynadon dactylon (Bermuda grass) plant.

 


 

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