Indigenous Cynodon dactylon turf grass is under attack by government. Indigenous Cynodon dactylon turf grass is under attack by government. Pic: Kay Montgomery

Cynodon dactylon: A listed invasive species?

Indigenous Cynodon dactylon turf grass is under attack by the South African government.

Why is indigenous Cynodon dactylon grass currently been targeted by government in South Africa?

Amendments to legislation 

On 16 February, 2018, South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs published amendments to the regulations and lists relating to the National List of Invasive Species.

Published in the Government Gazette, draft updates have been proposed for the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA) Alien and Invasive Species (AIS) Regulations.

The proposed draft legislation includes the listing of indigenous and water wise Cynodon dactylon (otherwise known as kweek, couch or bermudagrass) as a Category 2 invasive species.

Category 2 invasive species can only be propagated, owned, transported, planted or sold with a permit.

Under NEMBA, all cultivars and hybrids of Cynodon dactylon will be also require a permit to be owned, propagated, transported, planted and sold.

The month for public comment ended on 16 March 2017. Comments could be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Why has South Africa placed Cynodon dactylon on the proposed invader list?


* International invasion biology scientists: The Global Compendium of Weeds (GCW) (Randall, 2012) lists Cynodon dactylon as one of the top 12 cited invasive weeds in the world and is regarded as one of the most 'serious' agricultural and environmental weeds in the world (Holm et al., 1977). The GCW database currently contains 1,243,026 plant names with an associated 5,202,814 sourced records. GCW also lists Cynodon transvaalensis as a world invader.


* Kenya: In Kenya, Cynodon dactylon is declared a 'noxious weed of agriculture' under the Noxious Weeds Act CAP 325, in Kenya. Accordingly, the Minister of Agriculture can compel Kenyan land owners who have such declared noxious weeds growing on their land to eradicate or have it otherwise removed.


* United States of America: In the USA, Cynodon dactylon is known as bermudagrass. In the USA, it is regarded as one of the three most troublesome weeds in crops such as: surgarcane, cotton, corn and vineyards.


Against this backdrop, interspecific hybrid bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon × C. transvaalensis) is widely used on turfgrass playing surfaces for sports, particularly golf (Beard 2002).

In 2007, bermudagrass was grown on 32 % of the total golf course acreage in the USA, and 80 % of putting green acreage in the southern agronomic region (Lyman et al. 2007). Bermuda grass putting greens cover approximately 3642 hectares across the US (Lyman et al. 2007)


Which turf grasses in South Africa are affected by the proposed NEMBA AIS legislation?

  • Cynodon dactylon turf grass varieties: Sea Green, Princess, Prince Blend, Hollywood and Barbados.
  • Cynodon dactylon x C. transvaalensis turf grass hybrids and varieties: Gulfgreen, (see image below), Royal Blue, Tifdwarf, Tifgreen, Tifway, Tifsport and Silverton Blue.


Gulf green LO 0050 2 Final

Gulf Green (seen above) is a Cynodon dactylon x C. transvaalensis turf grass hybrid variety - and WILL be affected by the legislation. 


Which turf grasses in South Africa NOT affected by the proposed NEMBA AIS legislation?

  • Cynodon transvaalensis turf grass hybrids and varieties: Bayview, Florida, Skaaplaas, Harrismith.
  • Dactylotenium australe – LM / Berea
  • Pennisetum clandestinum – Kikuyu
  • Stenotaphrum secundatum – Buffalo


What does this proposal mean for turf suppliers and landscapers?


What happens if this proposed legislation is not challenged … and indigenous and water wise Cynodon dactylon becomes a Category 2 invasive species?


  • ​Every time a landscaper wants to plant Cynodon dactylon or any of its cultivars, they will need to apply for – and be granted – a R100 permit to grow, transport and sell this species. Permits can take from 2-6 weeks to obtain. Every customer will need a permit to possess the turf that is delivered.
  • All government ministries, national parks, national botanical gardens, municipalities, landowners, sports administrators, landscapers and gardeners across the country will have to buy a R100 permit to make their indigenous Cynodon dactylon on their property legal.
  • Every municipality or organ of state in the country will have to obtain 'area' permits to legalise all the indigenous and water wise couch grass (Cynodon dactylon) growing in their parks, sports fields and along their road verges.
  • Indigenous Cynodon dactylon and its many cultivars are used extensively in the horticultural and landscaping industry as an alternative to waterholic kikuyu.
  • This proposed legislation will lead to an unprecedented increase in the planting of alien and waterholic kikuyu grass.
  • Cynodon species make up a large proportion of the turf mixes used on sports fields, waterwise landscapes, gardens and parks across South Africa.
  • Hundreds of schools across the country will have to go to the expense of permitting their fields.

For many environmentalists, conservationists and green industry professionals, the concept of indigenous Cynodon dactylon becoming a Category 2 invasive species is unworkable for South African society.

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