Ischaemum timorense

Scientific name


Andropogon timorensis (Kunth) Steud.
Ischaemum macrurum Stapf ex Ridley


Family: Poaceae (alt. Gramineae) subfamily: Panicoideae tribe: Andropogoneae.

Common names

centipede grass;  lucuntu grass;  loekoentoegras (Surinam, Dutch);  stalkleaf muraina grass (USA, Hawaii);  bhenta, rumput apet, jukut jampang manggung, jukut tambaga, kalamenta, kalameta, lambeta, lameta, suket tembaga, tatambagaan, tembagan, tembagen (Indonesia);  rumput sarang buaya (Malaysia);  mom timor (Vietnam);  waidoi grass (Fiji);  tametamml (Palau);  local batiki (Western Samoa).

Morphological description

A variable, spreading, erect, perennial (or annual), with ascending, scrambling, or stoloniferous growth habit, and fertile culms 15–60 (–100) cm tall.  Stems rooting at the nodes;  nodes silky.  Leaf sheath 3–6 cm long, tight, hairy round the node, fringed towards the throat;  ligule a short fringed membrane, sometimes long ciliate;  leaf-blade lanceolate to linear-lanceolate, 2–10 (–16) cm long and 3–15 mm wide, base obtuse or petiole-like, apex acute, glabrous, or with scattered soft hairs and prominent long, stiff, bulbous-based hairs towards the throat.  Inflorescence terminal, well exserted, comprising 2 (–3) closely opposed racemes, each 2–10 (–15) cm long;  spikelets inserted in pairs, one sessile, one pedicellate, alternately on one side of the triangular rachis;  spikelets similar, 4–7 mm long, 2-flowered, green or tinged with purple, lower floret male, upper floret bisexual;  lower glume with two acute lobes at the apex, upper glume with a short 2–3 mm long awn, upper lemma 2-lobed with a 10–17 mm long awn in the middle.  Caryopsis ellipsoid , 1–2 mm long.
Distinguished from I. ciliare in having the more constricted, pedicel -like leaf base.


Native to:
Asia :  India, Indonesia, Federated States of Micronesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Vietnam.
Found on grassy roadsides, banks of terraces, along ditches and forest margins, and as a weed in upland rice fields.

Naturalised in:
Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Fiji, French Guiana, Nicaragua, Panama, Suriname, and elsewhere.


Permanent pasture , frequently naturalised on heavily grazed communal land where it provides good ground cover against erosion and good quality edible feed.  Useful as a shade tolerant cover under trees.


Soil requirements

Grows on well-drained, light to medium textured soils (not heavy clays).  Adapted to low fertility and pH (4–) 4.5–5.5 (–7).  Intolerant of poor drainage.



Largely occurs in areas with average annual rainfall 800–2,000 mm, often with a pronounced dry season.  Tends to dry off quickly under dry conditions and may behave more as an annual at the lower end of the rainfall range.  Has some drought tolerance but is intolerant of waterlogging .


Appears to be less tropical in its temperature demands than I. ciliare, being found up to 2,000 m asl at 7ºS in Indonesia, and 1,300 m asl at 9.5ºN in Costa Rica.  Normally not grown in frosted areas, but unlikely to have any degree of frost tolerance .


Grows in full sun and up to 50% shade.

Reproductive development

Flowers April-November in southern Indonesia.


Tolerates the heavy grazing found on communal grasslands.  Can be cut if ungrazed.



Will recover from fire from seed or stolons.



It can be propagated from seed or stolon cuttings.  On the rare occasion seed is available, it can be sown at 3–6 kg/ha into a well prepared seedbed for successful establishment.  The high level of post-harvest dormancy in fresh seed starts to break down after about 6 months.  Seedlings are vigorous.  Because seed production is unreliable, it is mainly established vegetatively to achieve rapid ground cover and weed suppression.  Cuttings can be broadcast onto the soil surface and disced in, or planted on a 30 cm grid.


Not normally applied but will respond to nitrogen (with other deficient nutrients).

Compatibility (with other species)

Frequently found with annual weeds and grazing-tolerant legumes under heavy grazing.  Can suppress Chromolaena odorata.

Companion species


Grasses:  Chrysopogon aciculatus.
Legumes:  Alysicarpus vaginalis , Desmodium triflorum , Mimosa pudica, Stylosanthes humilis , S. hamata .

Pests and diseases

Seed heads may be infected by smut.  Alternative host for dark-headed stem borer (Chilo polychrysa: Lepidoptera, Pyralidae) and pink stem borer (Sesamia inferens: Lepidoptera, Noctuidae).

Ability to spread

An opportunistic coloniser of disturbed areas, spreading by seed and stem pieces, and as a result, is common along roadsides, ditches, forest margins, around villages and as a weed of cultivation.

Weed potential

Like any widely adapted, easily established, stoloniferous grass , I. timorense may be a weed in arable land e.g. in dry-land rice.  Although listed as an ‘environmental invasive’ by the Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER) group, it is rated as a weed of minor importance in Indonesia.

Feeding value

Nutritive value


Good quality leaf but may be restricted by low soil fertility and limited bulk.  Crude protein value in 3-week regrowth of well fertilised I. timorense has been measured at 20%, and 16% at 6 weeks, with levels in the leaf double those in the stem .  Similar stage of regrowth has been measured at 11% and 7% respectively.


Well grazed by cattle, horses and sheep.


No record of toxicity.

Production potential

Dry matter

Generally not very productive, particularly under heavy grazing, although yields up to 30 t/ha fresh forage have been measured.

Animal production


Production per head is usually limited by excessive stocking rates.


2n = 20, 36.

Seed production

Stands can be rested and hand harvested, although smut infection may reduce quality.  Seed is dormant for 6 months after harvest.

Herbicide effects

No information available.


  • Naturalising palatable grass .
  • Good ground cover.
  • Adapted to acid, low fertility soils.



  • Low yielding.
  • Poor dry season production.

Other comments

Not generally planted as an improved pasture but highly valuable in communally grazed areas where it provides palatable feed, and ground cover against serious potential erosion.

Selected references

Gilliland, H.B., Holttum, R.E. and Bor, N.L. (1971) A Revised Flora of Malaya Volume III Grasses of Malaya.  (The Botanic Gardens: Singapore).
Ipor, I.B., Baki, B.B. and Chen, C.P. (1992) Ischaemum timorense Kunth. In: 't Mannetje, L. and Jones, R.M. (eds) Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 4. Forages. pp. 148–149. (Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, the Netherlands).
Soerjani, M., Kostermans, A.J.H.G. and Tjitrosoepomo, G. (1987) Weeds of Rice in Indonesia . BIOTROP, Bogor, Indonesia.

Internet links



Country/date released


None released to date.      

Promising accessions


Promising accessions



None reported.