Fingergrass (Digitaria abyssinica)


Fingergrass (Digitaria abyssinica)

Perennial with slender long rhizomes and erect culms up to 30 cm high; leaf blades 3-5 mm wide, but on occasions up to 7-8 mm. Panicle of two to nine racemes, often whorled and sub-erect, 2.5-8 cm long with broadly elliptic, completely glabrous obtuse spikelets 2 mm long. The rhizomes form a dense mat beneath the soil surface, extending to depths greater than 1 m, and may twine around the roots of perennial crops. It differs from Cynodon dactylon in the vegetative stage in having an obvious membranous ligule where the leaf-blade joins the sheath.


Native to Zaire and eastern tropical Africa.

Altitude range:

Sea-level to 3 000 m.

Rainfall requirements:

It prefers more humid areas. Common near Bukoba on shores of Lake Victoria, west Tanzania. Rainfall should be in excess of 500 mm.

Tolerance to herbicides:

Glyphosate (Round-up) at 2 and 4 kg/ha and at split applications of 1 + 1 and 2 + 2 kg/ha gave very good control of D. abyssinica foliage but 1 kg/ha was less effective. Asulam at 2,4 and 8 kg/ ha gave poor control. Dalapon at 5 kg/ha gave moderate control which was improved by 0.5 kg/ha paraquat applied 51 days after treatment with dalapon. Prolific growth of annual broad-leaved weeds occurred where D. abyssinica had been controlled with glyphosate and dalapon and these would need subsequent control. Success in Kenya sisal plantations with heavy applications of sodium trichloro-acetate (Na-TCA). It was successfully controlled in Zambia coffee plantations by running poultry intensively.

Distribution Map:

Fingergrass (Digitaria abyssinica) is mainly found in hawaii.

Dry-matter and green-matter yields:

Fresh weight yields of D. abyssinica from sisal land of 36 t/ha which caused substantial fibre losses in the sisal.


Fairly palatable when young, but unproductive. It was accepted by Ankole bullocks in the wet season in Uganda, but not in the dry season.

Close up of the Fingergrass (Digitaria abyssinica) weed.

Chemical analysis and digestibility:

14.7 percent crude protein, 29 percent crude fibre, 9.5 percent ash, 3.8 percent ether extract and 43 percent nitrogen-free extract in fresh material at the early bloom stage. 8.69 percent crude protein, 31.48 percent crude fibre, 3 percent ether extract, 6.17 percent ash and 50.66 percent nitrogen-free- extract from flowering material in Zambia.

Natural habitat:

Grassland, and as a weed in plantation crops.


The grass is often a troublesome weed in cultivations, in plantations and in orchards. It has been planted on the slopes of the Cape Peninsula in Africa to control erosion. The most troublesome of all African weeds. It is, however, used in leys at Nemalonge, Uganda, in cotton rotations.

Value for erosion control:

It has been planted on the slopes of the Cape Peninsula in Africa to control erosion.

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