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Carpet grass (Axonopus fissifolius)


Click on the "Nutritional aspects" tab for recommendations for ruminants, pigs, poultry, rabbits, horses, fish and crustaceans
Common names 

Carpet grass, common carpet grass, tall carpet grass, caratao grass, Louisiana grass [English/USA]; narrow-leaved carpet grass, narrowleaf carpet grass, mat grass, Durrington grass [English/Australia]; grama-missioneira [Portuguese]; gramalote, zacate amargo [Spanish]; rumput permaidani [Malay]; 类地毯草 [Chinese]


Axonopus affinis Chase, Paspalum fissifolium Raddi


Carpet grass (Axonopus fissifolius (Raddi) Kuhlm.) is a rhizomatous, stoloniferous perennial pasture grass. It forms dense mats that are 15-30 cm high but the flowering culms may reach 60-75 cm. This shallow-rooted species (almost 90% of the roots are at a depth of 0-5 cm) develops short rhizomes and stout stolons with short internodes. The general habit is erect and branching. The stems root at the nodes (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005; Campbell et al., 1996). The leaves are 5-28 cm long and 4-8 mm broad, flat or folded, glabrous or sparsely hairy on the lower face. The slender inflorescences bear 2-3 spike-like racemes, which are 2-10 cm long. The spikelets are about 2 mm long, alternatively arranged on the rachis (Bogdan, 1977). The seed (grain) is an ellipsoid caryopsis, tan to pale brown in colour (Cook et al., 2005). Though Axonopus fissifolius is supposed to have narrower leaves than Axonopus compressus, these closely related species cannot be easily distinguished from one another due to hybridization and variability in leaf width (Bogdan, 1977).

Carpet grass is usually grazed rather than used in cut-and-carry systems, due to its slow growth and poor yields. It is valued as a cover crop and turf grass in moist, low fertility soils (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005). Some commercial cultivars exist (Campbell et al., 1996).


Carpet grass is a summer-growing perennial believed to have originated from the Southern USA, the West Indies or Central America (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005). It is now found in many tropical and subtropical regions of America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands (FAO, 2012). It generally grows in low, flat or hilly humid and sub-humid areas of warm temperate or tropical woodland and savannahs (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005). Axonopus fissifolius is better adapted to subtropical climates than to tropical ones. It can represent 30-60% of species in native and improved subtropical pastures (Hennessy et al., 1998). In Australia, where it has been naturalized for a long time, Axonopus fissifolius does very well during hot and dry summer seasons as well as in degraded pastures. It is found further south than Axonopus compressus (Cook et al., 2005; Campbell et al., 1996; Martin, 1975; Cohen, 1974). Axonopus fissifolius is found from 35°N to 35°S, from sea level to up to an altitude of 1000 m. It does well in places where average annual temperatures range from 17°C to 27°C and annual rainfall is higher than 750 mm. It survives heavy frost during winter and has some tolerance of drought but does not grow well under flooding or waterlogged conditions (Cook et al., 2005). It prefers moist acid sandy soils, or sandy loamy soils. It becomes chlorotic on soils with pH above 7. It has poor salt tolerance (< 4 dS/m) (Uddin et al., 2009; Cook et al., 2005).

Forage management 

Carpet grass is mainly found in permanent pastures where it can be heavily grazed by livestock or frequently cut. It can be vegetatively propagated through runners or sown, as it seeds easily (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005; Smith et al., 2002). When it is sown Axonopus fissifolius can be broadcast on a well-prepared seedbed and then rolled in (FAO, 2012). It can be sown with other grasses (Axonopus compressus, Paspalum dilatatum, Cynodon dactylon, and Setaria sphacelata) or legumes (Aeschynomene falcata, Aeschynomene villosa, Arachis glabrata, Arachis pintoi, Lotus uliginosus, Trifolium repens, Trifolium semipilosum, Vigna parkeri) (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005). When sown with dallis grass (Paspalum dilatatum) or Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) in low fertility soils, Axonopus fissifolius may gradually become invasive (FAO, 2012). Additional N in such mixed stands prevents carpet grass from becoming invasive and also helps maintaining it in its vegetative stage with a higher nutritive value. In natural rangelands, carpet grass is readily propagated by grazing ruminants because of the high viability of its seeds after passing through the rumen and total digestive tract (Simao Neto et al., 1986). Carpet grass tended to be more abundant in sheep and beef cattle pastures than in dairy pasture (Campbell et al., 1996).

Carpet grass is not very productive and yields about 1-5 t DM/ha/year, even with added fertilizer (Cook et al., 2005). Defoliation (by cutting or heavy grazing) prevents flowering and the subsequent decrease in its nutritive value (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005). Axonopus fissifolius should be cut low to prevent a fall in yield. Carpet grass is not suitable for hay and silage or for stand-over or deferred feeding because of its low productivity and poor nutritional value after the stems have flowered (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005).

Environmental impact 

Cover crop and soil quality improver

In the USA, carpet grass is often referred to as a good cover crop and soil erosion controller for shaded sloping fields. It is much valued in shaded orchards of Hawaii (Smith et al., 2002). It improves soil structure, and increases water infiltration rates and soil water capacity (Smith et al., 2002).

Weed control and weed potential

Once established, carpet grass smothers out weeds with its dense sward growth habit, making it a good tool for reduced, or no chemical weed control (Smith et al., 2002). However, carpet grass may become a weed in low fertility soils (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Carpet grass is considered a low quality forage (Campbell et al., 1996). Crude protein content in fresh fodder is low (5-10% DM) and in hay it is even lower (4-6%) (Feedipedia, 2013; Hennessy et al., 1998Lloyd et al., 1992Martin, 1975Cohen, 1974). However, pastures of Axonopus fissifolius with added N can contain 12% to 16% CP in the DM (Martin, 1975). In Australia, the invasion of carpet grass in Paspalum-based or kikuyu-based pastures has been linked with a decline in animal production (Martin, 1975). Some nutrient deficiencies and physical characteristics of Axonopus fissifolius make it resistant to microbial attack in the rumen, resulting in poor animal performance (Lloyd et al., 1992).

Potential constraints 

No information found (2012).


When leafy, carpet grass is fairly palatable to ruminants but palatability declines as the stands flower (FAO, 2012). Reported in vivo OM digestibility of carpet grass hay ranged between 43 and 55% (Lloyd et al., 1992; Cohen, 1974).

Most ruminant trials with Axonopus fissifolius have been carried out in Australia.


Sub-tropical pastures containing mostly Axonopus fissifolius can be grazed throughout the grazing season by beef cattle, with or without protein supplementation (Hennessy et al., 1998; Hennessy, 1986; Martin, 1975). Hereford heifers grazing carpet grass-based native tropical pastures of low quality (protein 5% DM, DM digestibility 50%) gained more live weight and had a higher pregnancy rate when supplemented with molasses or molasses-cottonseed meal than those without supplementation (Hennessy, 1986). Early experiments reported lower animal performance on carpet grass pastures than on Paspalum notatum, coastal Bermuda or Digitaria eriantha pastures. In grazing cattle, live-weight gain was found to be low (70-170 kg/ha/year), with weight loss often occurring at the end of the season when the cattle were not fed a supplement. Gain can be greatly increased up to 100-700 kg/ha/year by mixing carpet grass with white clover (Trifolium repens) or Lespedeza cuneata (Martin, 1975). In Angus steers fed mature carpet grass hay in pens, DM intake reached 17.2 g/kg LW/day but digestible DM intake was only 7.6 g/kg LW/d, resulting in a daily weight loss of 0.54 kg. Supplementation with molasses (500 g/d) increased DM intake by 30%, resulting in less weight loss (0.12 kg/d). Additional supply of 60 or 120 g/d of urea had no effect on DM digestibility, DM intake and live-weight loss (Cohen, 1974).


Adult Peppin Merino sheep fed on low quality Axonopus fissifolius hay (protein 5.7% DM, OM digestibility 52%) had a DM intake of 12.3 g/kg LW/day. Increasing the amount of oats in the diet from 20 to 50% (DM basis) reduced NDF and ADF digestibilities, but increased DM or OM digestibilities (Lloyd et al., 1992).


No information found (2012).

Horses and donkeys 

Horses are reported to eat the clumps of seed-heads that are unpalatable to ruminants (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005).

Nutritional tables

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

Non fertilized pastures.

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 37.9 13.4 28.9 57.8 4  
Crude protein % DM 6.5 1.3 4.8 10.1 18  
Crude fibre % DM 32.8 2.6 28.6 37.2 11  
NDF % DM 68.1         *
ADF % DM 38.4         *
Lignin % DM 5.0         *
Ether extract % DM 1.5 0.3 1.1 1.9 11  
Ash % DM 7.3 1.6 5.1 11.2 12  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.1         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 2.7 0.8 1.6 4.0 14  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.1 0.6 0.0 2.9 19  
Potassium g/kg DM 12.3 3.7 6.4 18.0 11  
Sodium g/kg DM 1.3 0.3 1.1 1.6 5  
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.3 0.3 1.6 2.6 10  
Manganese mg/kg DM 270 144 75 463 5  
Zinc mg/kg DM 23 4 19 28 5  
Copper mg/kg DM 4 0 4 5 5  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 63.3         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 60.5         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 11.0         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.9         *

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


Aregheore et al., 2006; CIRAD, 1991; Cohen, 1972; INFIC, 1978; Lim Han Kuo, 1967; Martin, 1975

Last updated on 23/04/2013 16:03:45

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 89.0   87.0 91.0 2  
Crude protein % DM 4.7   3.8 5.6 2  
NDF % DM 72.0         *
ADF % DM 43.0       1  
Lignin % DM 6.0         *
Ash % DM 7.6       1  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.2       1  
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 2.1       1  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 0.5       1  
Potassium g/kg DM 3.4       1  
Sodium g/kg DM 0.7       1  
Magnesium g/kg DM 1.5       1  
Manganese mg/kg DM 421       1  
Zinc mg/kg DM 19       1  
Copper mg/kg DM 4       1  
Iron mg/kg DM 226       1  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 52.4       1  
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 49.1         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.4         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 24.6       1  

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


Cohen, 1974; Lloyd et al., 1992

Last updated on 23/04/2013 16:05:41

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Delagarde R., Lebas F., 2016. Carpet grass (Axonopus fissifolius). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/499 Last updated on April 7, 2016, 15:29

English correction by Tim Smith (Animal Science consultant) and Hélène Thiollet (AFZ)