Hyparrhenia filipendula (Hochst.) Stapf



Common names

Tambookie grass (Australia), fine thatching grass (South Africa), fine hood grass (Kenya).


Slender perennial up to 150 cm high. Panicle narrow, loose, often over 30 cm long with greenish or purplish racemes up to 15 mm long. Panicle branches subtended by spathes, raceme pairs by spatheoles. At maturity the raceme forms a distinctive L-shaped unit. In var. filipendula the two racemes form an L- shaped unit, hence the common name "three o'clock thatching grass". The lower raceme is nearly sessile; the upper has a filiform base. Each raceme has a twisted awn that is hairy. The spikelets are glabrous. Var. pilosa has hairy spikelets and usually three to four twisted hairy awns to each pair of racemes (Chippendall & Crook, 1976).


Africa, Sri Lanka, Burma, Australia.

Altitude range

Sea-level to 2 250 m. In Zaire it succeeds H. diplandra at elevations below 1 700 m when H. diplandra formation is subjected to repeated crop growing (Risopoulos, 1966).

Rainfall requirements

It requires a rainfall in excess of 625 mm.

Response to defoliation

At Mt Makulu Research Station, Zambia, cutting H. filipendula pastures twice or four times a year (according to the frequency with which it reached a height of 30 cm) over a period of nine years changed the botanical composition. The dominance of shorter grasses, such as Cynodon dactylon, Digitaria setivalva, Heteropogon contortus and Microchloa caffra, offered an improvement in nutritive value (van Rensburg, 1968). In Uganda heavy stocking led to its replacement by Brachiaria decumbens, which is a much more nutritious grass (Harrington & Pratchett, 1974b).

Grazing management

It generally requires periodic burning late in the dry season. Biennial fires encouraged H. filipendula (Harrington & Pratchett, 1974b) and Themeda triandra in Uganda.

Response to fire

Burning late in the dry season in Zambia controls encroachment of Acacia spp., but if done too often it leads to decreased plant cover­ after three years ground cover by H. filipendula was halved (Brockington, 1961).

Dry-matter and green-matter yields

Keya (1973) obtained 3 671 kg DM/ha over 14 months from unfertilized grass with linear increases up to 9 883 kg with 300 kg N/ha plus 105 kg P/ha from a Hyparrhenia grassland of H. filipendula, H. cymbaria and Hyperthelia dissoluta in Africa. In Zaire it produced 28 798 kg/ha and 25 627 kg/ha of green matter in 1958 and 1959, respectively (Risopoulos, 1966).


Ndyanabo (1974) recorded 0.46 percent total oxalic acid in the dry matter, but no toxicity.


Valuable grazing early in the rainy season. Less woody than other Hyparrhenia spp., but palatability falls toward maturity.

Chemical analysis and digestibility

Dougall and Bogdan (1958) recorded 6.6 percent crude protein, 36.3 percent crude fibre, 5.7 percent ash, 1.8 percent ether extract and 49.5 percent nitrogen-free extract in the dry matter at the fresh early bloom stage in Kenya. It is not regarded as a desirable grazing grass in Uganda (Harrington & Pratchett, 1972).

Natural habitat

Well-drained grassland and open woodland. Common in the African miombo.

Fertilizer requirements

Hyparrhenia spp. grassland yield of dry matter increased from 3 671 kg/ha unfertilized to 7 594 kg/ha fertilized with 300 kg N/ha and in association with 105 kg/ha of P2O5 from 4 477 kg/ha to 9 883 kg/ ha. It was concluded, however, that it was uneconomical to fertilize pure natural grassland and that legumes, e.g. Desmodium spp., should be introduced to make better use of fertilizer (Keya, 1973).

Genetics and reproduction

2n=40 (Fedorov, 1974).


It is commonly used for thatching.

Animal production

No specific quantitative figures have been found (see H. hirta).

Further reading

Risopoulos, 1966.