Friday Fellow: Broadleaf Carpetgrass

by Piter Kehoma Boll

We see grasses all the time around us but we barely pay attention to them, even though they form one of the most diverse plant families in the world. Today I’m presenting one of them, one that actually grows all around my parents’ house making up the lawn. Its scientific name is Axonopus compressus and its common name is often Broadleaf Carpetgrass.

The typical appearance of a lawn of broadleaf carpetgrass. Notice a lot of leaves cut from mowing the lawn. Photo by Mateo Hernandez Schmidt.*

This species is native from southern USA to northern Argentina. As all, or most, grass species used as lawn, it has a creeping habit, with shoots that come out of the subterranean rhizomes spreading horizontally over the soil. It has relatively broad and soft leaves for a grass, without much hair, and often a reddish tinge on the creeping “branches”. The inflorescences form narrow spikes that occur in groups of 2 to 3, sometimes up to 5, in the single branch that comes out from the top of a stalk that can be up to 60 cm tall. Sometimes more than one inflorescence comes out of the same stalk.

Due to the fact that the broadleaf carpetgrass grows too close to the soil, it is not popular as a food source for cattle. However, it is very common as lawn, especially because it is very tolerant to both drought and floods, full sun or shadow. It can also be used for football fields, although it is not considered an ideal species for that.

A stalk with several inflorescences with 2 to 3 spikes each. Photo by Mateo Hernandez Schmidt.*

Although native to the Americas, the broadleaf carpetgrass has been introduced in Africa, Asia and Australia and became a weed of considerable importance in some places. Even though it does not grow and spread as quickly as other grasses, it often is able to survive and sometimes even outcompete other species due to its resistance to a broad range of environmental conditions.

An intact plant. Photo by Marina Chaves.**

Several studies have indicated that the broadleaf carpetgrass can be used as an efficient agent to reduce the pollution of contaminated soils and grey water. Recent studies have also focused on the genetics of this species to understand its phylogenetic relationships and the mechanisms responsible for its remarkable resistance.

Although usually an “invisible” organism that is very present around us, the broadleaf carpetgrass is very useful to humans for a variety of purposes and probably many more are still to be discovered.

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References:

Arunbabu, V., Sruthy, S., Antony, I., & Ramasamy, E. V. (2015). Sustainable greywater management with Axonopus compressus (broadleaf carpet grass) planted in sub surface flow constructed wetlands. Journal of Water Process Engineering7, 153-160. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jwpe.2015.06.004

Bordoloi, S., Basumatary, B., Saikia, R., & Das, H. C. (2012). Axonopus compressus (Sw.) P. Beauv. A native grass species for phytoremediation of hydrocarbon‐contaminated soil in Assam, India. Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology87(9), 1335-1341.

He, L., Liao, L., Wang, Z., & Wu, Y. (2020). The complete chloroplast genome of Axonopus compressus (Sw.) Beauv. and its phylogenetic position. Mitochondrial DNA Part B5(2), 1441-1442. https://doi.org/10.1080/23802359.2020.1735951

Ighovie, E. S., & Ikechukwu, E. E. (2014). Phytoremediation of crude oil contaminated soil with Axonopus compressus in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria. Natural Resources2014. doi: 10.4236/nr.2014.52006

Invasive Species Compendium. Axonopus compressus (carpet grass). Available at < https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/8094 >. Access on 18 February 2021.

Nawaz, M., Li, L., Azeem, F., Shabbir, S., Zohaib, A., Ashraf, U., … & Wang, Z. (2021). Insight of transcriptional regulators reveals the tolerance mechanism of carpet-grass (Axonopus compressus) against drought. BMC plant biology21(1), 1-14.

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*Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

**Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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