Cenchrus ciliare

Other Common Names

Buffel Grass

Plant Category

Grass and Sedge

Invasive Description

(Not to be confused with our native Buffalo Grass (Bouteloua dactyloides)). Native to Africa, Asia, and Europe, Buffelgrass is a perennial bunchgrass with erect stems 5-60 inches tall. It can form thick mats or tussocks with dense, usually stoloniferous root systems. The leaf blades are bluish-green in color. Flowers are covered with small spikes or burrs to facilitate seed dispersal by attaching to animal fur or human clothing. Synonym: Pennisetum ciliare

Ecological Threat

Buffelgrass was introduced to the United States in the 1930s as livestock forage. The grass’s rapid growth is dense and crowds out native plants of similar size. It quickly dominates moist areas, resulting in weakening and killing larger desert plants. Dense roots and ground shading prevent germination of competing seeds. It can kill most native plants by these means alone.  It has been identified as the most troublesome weed in Big Bend National Park. It was first introduced in San Antonio in the mid-1940s, and by the mid-1970s, it covered 90% of the seeded rangeland south of San Antonio.  It is considered by some to be simultaneously the most important forage grass in South Texas and an invasive and troublesome weed displacing native species. Buffelgrass is considered the archenemy of the Sonoran Desert– the invasive grass most likely to cause significant damage to the native ecosystem, including the Giant Saguaro Cactus.

Buffelgrass alters the fire regime and creates a fire hazard for infrastructure, animals and people. In desert areas unused to ground fires, it causes a high volume of dry plant matter to accumulate, which can fuel intense fires. Resilience to fire enables buffelgrass to survive and quickly produce new growth after burning, providing fuel for more fires.

You may not want or need to replace this invasive plant, but if you do, options are listed below.

How to Eradicate

For information on how to eradicate this invasive, view our statement on herbicide use and preferred alternatives for invasive plants.

Native Alternatives

You can replace this invasive plant with native alternatives. Here are some plants that make superior replacements.

Match your location on the Texas map to the color squares on the replacement plants below to find suitable replacements for your ecoregion.

Click for more details about the ecoregions
Additional Replacement Options: Native range grasses and forbs