Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon) is a difficult-to-control perennial grass found extensively in northern Utah. Cynodon dactylon can be an invasive and competitive weed. The extensive stolon and rhizome system provides a means of rapid expansion. This species requires high temperatures and high light levels to thrive.
The photo above highlights the unique seed heads in their "star" shape. It is at this stage that control with herbicides is most effective.
Initial introduction of Bermuda Grass into the United States is uncertain, but most likely it occurred in the mid-1800s. It is a native species of East Africa. Within the next hundred years, Bermuda Grass had been introduced throughout the southern region and now ranges from California to Florida and occasionally in more northern states. The common name for all the East African rhizomatous species of Cynodon
is Bermuda Grass, which includes many hybrids used in golf courses and lawns. It is ironic that Bermuda Grass is both loved and hated in many facets of horticulture. It grows with vigor all by itself where we do not want it to, or is purchased by the sack full to be carefully planted and cared for.
In The United States it occurs at elevations under 6000 feet, primarily in waste places, agricultural fields, and roadsides. Northern Utah is no exception. Although widespread, this species thrives under extreme disturbance and does not, as a rule, invade natural grasslands or forest vegetation. In areas of low rainfall it commonly grows along irrigation ditches and streambeds. Bermuda Grass is extremely drought tolerant but moisture does significantly increases its growth rate.
Managing Bermuda Grass is not an easy proposition, especially when it must be controlled selectively within an already planted turf, garden, or landscaped area. It can be managed non-chemically with a persistent program of removal, or over large areas with cultivation and withholding water during the summer to desiccate the stolons and rhizomes. Mulches of black plastic or geotextile landscape fabric can also be effective over broad areas if light is excluded. Control with herbicides requires careful timing and often more than one application. The best management practice is to avoid the initial invasion of Cynodon dactylon
by limiting soil disturbances and maintaining a vegetation cover. Areas where the soil and native plants are kept intact should have little problem from Bermuda Grass since it mainly invades disturbed lands.
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