Tony Koski, Extension Turf Specialist
|African bermudagrass (Cynodon transvaalensis)|
Beginning in 2014, I began receiving questions about a “new” turfgrass – being sold under the name Dog Tuff ™ African Dogtooth Grass. The sellers of this grass suggest that its Latin/scientific name is Cynodon hybrida. I have searched databases for this grass and run it by prominent bermudagrass breeders and researchers – with no one recognizing any turfgrass (or grass, for that matter) with the Latin name C. hybrida. For you plant nerds out there, you can check the validity of any scientific/Latin name at The Plant List, a working list of all plant species (currently contains over 1 million plant species names). If you want to be uber nerdy, you can even see a photo of the earliest specimen of this grass (housed in the herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew), collected in Africa in 1919. The species was officially named in 1921.
|C. transvaalensis is a non-native grass, introduced|
from the Transvaal region of South Africa.
Soooooo, this is far from a “new” grass. It is a species of bermudagrass, African bermudagrass (Cynodon transvaalensis Burtt-Davy), used by turfgrass breeders since the 1950s to develop new, interspecific turf-type bermudagrass cultivars. Tifway bermudagrass, released in 1960, has C. transvaalensis as one of its parents. African bermudagrass (AKA couchgrass, African dogstooth grass) is a native of the Transvaal region of South Africa, where it can be found growing on the high grass prairie (veld). This region of South Africa experiences sharp day (70s-80s)/night (30s-50s) temperature differences, and receives 18-24 inches of precipitation annually.
|C. transvaalensis can produce a dense turf.|
I have been growing this grass at CSU for many years, after finding it in a Denver lawn during the 2002 drought. It forms an attractive, dense sod. The leaves are very fine textured, and the grass spreads aggressively via stolons and rhizomes. It has excellent cold hardiness (one reason it is used as a parent in bermudagrass breeding programs). Left unmowed, it grows to a height of 3-6 inches, depending on how much water and fertilizer it receives. Because of its aggressive, dense growth, few weeds will appear in this turf. However, during the warmest times of the year, mowing will often result in scalping – causing a brownish appearance. Because of this tendency to scalp when mowed, it will probably look more attractive if left unmowed (or if mowed frequently…as in 2-3 times weekly during the summer).
|Like all bermudagrasses, C. transvaalensis spreads|
by aggressive stolons ('runners')
|Bermudagrass is one of few grass species that|
spreads by both rhizomes and stolons - a growth habit
that makes it both a traffic-tolerant turf and a potentially
troublesome and difficult-to-control landscape weed
|Bermuda is a warm-season grass, so will have a long|
winter dormant period in Colorado
So, yes, it is in many ways a tough grass – because it is bermudagrass. Remember: the perfect turfgrass (for every lawn situation) has not yet been discovered or developed by breeders. Every species has its positive and negative sides – and this one is no exception.