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Creeping bluegrass (Bothriochloa insculpta)


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Common names 

Creeping bluegrass, pinhole grass, sweet-pit grass, sweet pitted grass, stippel grass [English]; stippelgras, klosgras [Afrikaans]


Amphilophis insculpta Stapf, Dichanthium insculptum (Hochst. ex A. Rich.) Clayton, Andropogon pertusus var. insculptus

Related feed(s) 

Creeping bluegrass (Bothriochloa insculpta (Hochst. ex A. Rich.) A. Camus) is a stoloniferous grass used as permanent pasture and for hay in tropical and subtropical beef production systems (Cook, 2007; Göhl, 1982).

Morphological description

Bothriochloa insculpta is a tufted, leafy, more or less stoloniferous grass that reaches a height of 30-150 cm. The stoloniferous stems are waxy, 1.5-2.5 mm in diameter and reddish pink to mauve in colour. The runners generally do not root from the nodes. Seed bearing stems are finer, erect, yellow in colour and have spreading hairs at their nodes. The numerous leaves of creeping bluegrass are glaucous with a powdery wax coating. The leaf-blades are linear, tapering, 30 cm long x 0.8 cm wide (Cook, 2007). The inflorescence is a purple, racemose panicle. The main axis is shorter (1.8-3 cm in length) than the 3-20 racemes (4.5-9 cm). Spikelets are borne in pairs. Hermaphrodite spikelets are awned, and sessile and male/sterile spikelets are pedicellate and awnless. The seeds are very minute, there being 650 000-1,2.106 seeds/kg (Cook, 2007; Skerman et al., 1990; Bogdan, 1977). 


Bothriochloa insculpta is mainly used as a leafy forage crop that can grow on medium fertility soils. It can be grazed or cut to make good quality hay (Cook et al., 2005). A limitation of creeping bluegrass as forage is the fragrance of its stems, seeds and leaves that deters animals from eating it (Skerman et al., 1990). Stoloniferous varieties of creeping bluegrass are valued for erosion control and ground cover. It has been used for reseeding pastoral denuded land in Kenya (Bogdan, 1977). There are 2 commercial varieties available in Australia: Hatch and Bisset. The latter establishes faster, flourishes later and is more tolerant of frost (DAF, 2013).


Bothriochloa insculpta is native to Africa and India. It was introduced into Australia in 1931. The species is now widespread in many tropical and subtropical countries (Cook et al., 2005). It occurs in open bush and grassland, in arid savanna as well as in overgrazed wetter areas or on hillsides. It is found from 0 to 37° in both hemispheres up to an altitude of 2000 m and where mean annual temperature is 17-27°C. It does better in places where annual rainfall is 700-1200 mm but it survives where extremes are in the range of 450-1500 mm. Creeping bluegrass is tolerant of drought and of waterlogging but for short periods only. It is fairly hardy. During frost the leaves are burned off but the grass regrows from crowns along the stolons (DAF, 2013; Cook, 2007; Cook et al., 2005). Bothriochloa insculpta can grow on a wide range of soils of moderate fertility, from neutral to alkaline but prefers those that are well-drained. It is among the few grasses that can be grown on eroded, black self-mulching clays though its establishment is difficult. It is tolerant of fire. Creeping bluegras is a full sunlight grass (DAF, 2013; Cook, 2007; Cook et al., 2005; Bogdan, 1977).

Forage management 


Bothriochloa insculpta establishes quickly during the warm season to form dense swards (DAF, 2013). It should be sown on a well-prepared seedbed that has been fallowed for N accumulation and weed control. Good residual moisture should be available at the time of sowing. Seeding can occur during early spring or mid-summer (in areas where summer rains are frequent). It is possible to undersow creeping bluegrass into standing oats or barley stubbles, which if the stubbles are then grazed by animals will ensure the seeds are covered by their hoof action (DAF, 2013). Seeds should be broadcasted or drilled no deeper than 10 mm. As the seeds are fluffy it may be useful to mix them with fertilizers or sawdust to sow them. Rolling after sowing is necessary to maintain the seed in contact with moist soil. N fertilizer is not necessary and uneconomic but N from companion legumes can provide sufficient N to stimulate the grass (DAF, 2013; Cook, 2007). 

Bothriochloa insculpta is generally grown in pure stands or in stands where a mixture of creeping bluegrass varieties has been sown. When other species are desired, companion legumes like Aeschynomene villosa, leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala), alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and Stylosanthes spp. should be chosen. However, Bothriochloa insculpta may outcompete legumes (Cook et al., 2005).


Creeping bluegrass yields 10 t DM/ha in pastures and up to 15-20 t DM/ha in fields where fertilizer and irrigation are available (Cook et al., 2005). 


Bothriochloa insculpta withstands heavy grazing, and its proportion in the pasture increases with grazing density (Cook, 2007). Grazing can start as soon as seedlings have developed a strong root system. In stands where creeping bluegrass is undersown within cereal stubbles, the trampling of animals promotes stolon rooting. In summer, grazing is recommended to prevent the stand from becoming woody. In mixed stands with Stylosanthes humilis, creeping bluegrass should be grazed to 10-15 cm. With siratro, grazing down to a height of 30 cm is recommended (Skerman et al., 1990).

Hay and silage

Creeping bluegrass can be cut for hay before the stems become too coarse. Creeping bluegrass hay is scented and not much appreciated by animals. The hay is eaten by horses, beef cattle and sheep (Skerman et al., 1990). Dairy cattle do not eat it readily.

Environmental impact 

Invasive weed controller

Creeping bluegrass was reported to be an effective controller of the invasive weed Parthenium hysterophorus in Australia and Pakistan. It can suppress more than 62% of this species in rangelands (Khan et al., 2014).

Soil stabilization and revegetation

In Australia, creeping bluegrass was shown to have great potential for soil stabilization (Truong et al., 1985). It was used for the revegetation of eroded granitic areas in North Queensland (Hall, 1988).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

The forage quality of Bothriochloa insculpta is relatively low and declines with age, and more rapidly with the onset of flowering. The level of crude protein can drop from 9% in young leaves to about 5% in mature growth at the end of the season (Cook, 2007).



Though creeping bluegrass forage is strongly scented, it is palatable to most livestock (DAF, 2013). In a survey of pastoralists in the semi-arid rangelands of Borana in southern Ethiopia, Bothriochloa insculpta was ranked as being of modest interest (8th out of 15 species), far below buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) (Keba et al., 2013). In Kenya, creeping bluegrass is generally avoided by cattle in natural pastures but intake increased significantly when animals were offered protein supplementation (Odadi et al., 2013). In Australia, cv. Bisset is more readily eaten than cv. Hatch (Cook, 2007). 


In Swaziland, creeping bluegrass was reported to have the highest OM degradability (49-53% depending on site), the lowest fibre content (59% NDF and 35% ADF) and the highest CP content (7.9%) among other grass species such as Guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus), spear grass (Heteropogon contortus) or sabi grass (Urochloa mosambicensis) (Tefera et al., 2009).

Horses and donkeys 

Creeping bluegrass hay is eaten by horses (Skerman et al., 1990). 

Nutritional tables

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 36.6 15.1 20.0 66.8 12  
Crude protein % DM 8.1 2.4 4.9 13.0 31  
Crude fibre % DM 30.4 1.9 27.1 32.5 19  
NDF % DM 72.0 6.2 59.7 78.0 15  
ADF % DM 45.0 5.1 35.1 53.4 12  
Lignin % DM 6.5         *
Ether extract % DM 2.7 0.6 1.8 3.7 20  
Ash % DM 12.7 1.7 9.9 15.0 32  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.4         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 2.2 1.2 1.1 3.9 4  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 0.9 1.2 0.0 2.6 4  
Potassium g/kg DM 34.6 34.9 2.5 65.6 4  
Sodium g/kg DM 0.1   0.1 0.2 2  
Magnesium g/kg DM 1.1 0.4 0.8 1.7 4  
Manganese mg/kg DM 73       1  
Zinc mg/kg DM 210 156 30 300 3  
Copper mg/kg DM 8 3 3 10 4  
Iron mg/kg DM 465 61 395 500 3  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 66.0 6.0 54.3 67.2 4 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 63.1         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 11.0         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.9         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 56.3 8.8 44.7 63.5 4  

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Aganga et al., 2005; Keba et al., 2013; Mero et al., 1997; Selemani et al., 2016; Tefera et al., 2009; Todd, 1956; Todd, 1956; Todd, 1956

Last updated on 20/09/2016 23:11:21

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 83.8 6.4 76.2 92.5 9  
Crude protein % DM 4.3 1.2 1.7 5.5 9  
Crude fibre % DM 32.2 2.8 30.3 37.2 7  
NDF % DM 68.2   67.3 69.1 2  
ADF % DM 47.8   46.2 49.3 2  
Lignin % DM 7.1         *
Ether extract % DM 2.4 0.5 1.7 3.0 7  
Ash % DM 12.0 2.0 8.0 14.1 9  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.3         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 4.5   4.5 4.6 2  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.1   0.6 1.6 2  
Potassium g/kg DM 3.9   3.5 4.4 2  
Sodium g/kg DM 0.2   0.2 0.2 2  
Magnesium g/kg DM 1.6   1.4 1.8 2  
Manganese mg/kg DM 21   5 37 2  
Zinc mg/kg DM 78   38 119 2  
Copper mg/kg DM 3   2 3 2  
Iron mg/kg DM 274   157 391 2  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 60.8 4.8 45.2 60.8 3 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 57.3         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.9         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.1         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 29.7 12.4 15.8 39.6 3  

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Aganga et al., 2005; Todd, 1956; Todd, 1956; Todd, 1956; Todd, 1956

Last updated on 20/09/2016 23:12:04

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Thiollet H., Tran G., 2016. Creeping bluegrass (Bothriochloa insculpta). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/494 Last updated on November 7, 2016, 9:58

English correction by Tim Smith (Animal Science consultant)