Panicum coloratum L. var. makarikariense Goossens



Common names

Makarikari grass (Australia), Makarikari panicum (southern Africa).


Cultivar Bambatsi is an erect, tussocky perennial, shortly rhizomatous, seldom stoloniferous. Culms robust, glaucous, branching and erect to a height of 1.5-1.8 m; nodes geniculate, slightly enlarged, leaf-blade 46 cm long and 13 mm wide in the prominent wide opaque midrib. Auricle absent. Inflorescence a large, open, nodding panicle 25-33 cm long, rachis grooved and partly flattened. Spikelets 2 mm long. Seed: the lemma and palea closely invest the caryopsis; the "seed" is ovoid, 2.25 mm long, smooth shiny, grey-black. About 95 percent of the population have the erect habit, about 5 percent have the more spreading and stoloniferous habit described for cv. Pollock (Barnard, 1972).


Collected from the Makarikari pan in Botswana. Introduced widely.

Season of growth


Altitude range

Sea-level to 2 000 m.

Rainfall requirements

It fits into a 500-1 000 mm rainfall belt with a dominant summer incidence.

Drought tolerance

A reasonable degree of drought tolerance (Bott, 1978). In its centre of origin it exists on flood plains receiving as little as 375 mm/year.

Soil requirements

Adapted to self-mulching, high-fertility, black clay soils where poor aeration conditions are common (Lloyd, 1970).

Ability to spread naturally

It will spread slowly from shattered seed and by stolons.

Land preparation for establishment

Prepare a good seed-bed with a 5 cm mulch if possible (Lloyd & Scateni, 1968).

Sowing methods

Drilling on the contours in small drill furrows at 1.5 cm with fluted roller-press wheels following gives excellent stands (Wilson, 1978). Seed may be broadcast and rolled in afterwards. Sow in rows 90 cm apart for inter-row cultivation or 30-45 cm for irrigation.

Sowing depth and cover

Surface, to no deeper than 2 cm (Bogdan, 1964; Lloyd & Scateni, 1968).

Sowing time and rate

Early or late wet season at 2-4 kg/ha. Midsummer seeding encourages too much weed competition.

Number of seeds per kg.

962 000 ('Bambatsi', Queensland).

Tolerance to herbicides

P. coloratum showed good tolerance to atrazine when used as a pre-emergence and post-emergence spray on black clay soils on the Darling Downs, south-eastern Queensland ­ up to 4 kg/ha (Scateni, 1978).

Seedling vigour

The seedlings have poor competitive ability (Bott, 1978) but improve later (Lloyd, 1970).

Vigour of growth and growth rhythm

It grows rapidly during late spring and summer but is dormant in winter (Lloyd, 1970).

Response to defoliation

It withstands heavy grazing when established, but graze lightly for the first six months down to 7.5 cm when the first flower-head appears (Lloyd & Scateni, 1968) to encourage tiller development.

Grazing management

It should be grazed lightly in its first year, but when established can withstand heavy stocking. Spell during the summer and autumn if possible to preserve green leaf for the winter.

Response to fire

It will survive annual fires.

Dry-matter and green-matter yields

Under experimental conditions it produces over 20 000 kg/ha per year with a dressing of 650 kg N/ha per year (Lloyd, 1970).

Suitability for hay and silage

It makes useful hay in southern Africa with 9 percent crude protein (59 percent digestible) and 60 percent total digestible nutrients in the dry matter (Göhl, 1975). Medling (1972) made good silage in plastic bags in Panama when 10 percent molasses was added.

Value as a standover or deferred feed

It is excellent, as it bears green leaf throughout the winter.


No toxicity has been reported by Everist (1974).

Seed yield

Roe (1972) recorded 410 kg/ha by collecting shattered seed, 123 kg/ha by direct heading. Let the seed sweat in a 15-25 cm heap for two days to ripen more seed, then dry seed thoroughly.


  • 'Bambatsi' 
collected at Bambatsi Lake on the Marczamnyana or Nata River in southern Zimbabwe. It is a dark-seeded, erect form that can be distinguished from most other such forms by its superior seed set. The seed ripens unevenly and shatters readily. Tolerates flooding. It is slow to establish. It is the most frost- tolerant cultivar.
  • 'Pollock' 
derived from seed from the Department of Agriculture in South Africa. It differs from 'Bambatsi' in habit and growth. It is a leafy, ascending type, stoloniferous from the lowermost three to four nodes; strongly tussocky. Leaves smaller than 'Bambatsi', with leaf-blade 30-28 cm long, 9 mm wide. Inflorescence denser than 'Bambatsi', but still with lowermost branch solitary. In spaced swards it develops crowns 90-180 cm in diameter, useful where soil conservation is needed and waterlogging occurs. It is palatable, more frost-tolerant than 'Bambatsi' if grazed heavily in the autumn. It ripens unevenly, as does 'Bambatsi', and shatters heavily. Seed yield is only about half that of 'Bambatsi'.
  • 'Burnett' 
derived from seed from Botswana in 1954. A tall, tussocky, semi- erect type with greater ability to spread from the lower nodes than 'Bambatsi'. In this respect it is intermediate between 'Bambatsi' and Pollock, having about half the characteristics of each of the others. Leaves large like 'Bambatsi'. Seed dark like 'Bambatsi', has shown some frost tolerance, winter growth is slow but new tillers are produced then, if moisture is available. Its seed also ripens unevenly and shatters badly (Barnard, 1972).
  • 'Bushman Mine' 
selected at Henderson Research Station near Harare, Zimbabwe. Is drought tolerant (Chippendall & Crook, 1976).
  • 'Prinshof 11/12' 
like 'Bambatsi' but produces little seed.
  • 'Thilo Creeping Panicum' 
produces runners rooting at the nodes.
  • 'Prinshof 14/12' 
similar to 'Thilo'. These latter three produce little seed (Whyte, Moir & Cooper, 1959).
  • Panicum coloratum var. kabulabula Codd 
introduced as 'CPI 16797' to Australia. At Westwood in the Fitzroy Basin, central subcoastal Queensland, P. coloratum var. kabulabula established well on the alluvial soils and exhibited excellent seedling vigour. It also grew well with the legume Macroptilium atropurpureum on a red-brown prairie-like (clay 27-41 percent) ridge soil (Hall, 1970).

Main attributes

The ability of the cultivars to grow on heavy, self-mulching, black clay soils.

Main deficiencies

Uneven seed set and seed shattering, and lack of winter production.

Optimum temperature for growth

About 35°C.

Minimum temperature for growth

It makes no growth during the winter.

Frost tolerance

Recovers better than green panic after winter. Cultivar Pollock is quite frost tolerant, with 85 percent survival after the first winter on the Darling Downs (Jones, 1969), but cv. Kabulabula is very susceptible to frost.

Latitudinal limits

13.5-30.3°N and S (Russell & Webb, 1976).

Response to light

It prefers full sunlight.

Ability to compete with weeds

Weed competition may be a problem early in its life because of its slow establishment (Lloyd & Scateni, 1968).

Maximum germination and quality required for sale

80 percent purity and 20 percent germination in Queensland. Germinate at 20-35°C, moistened with water. Scarify seed.


It has no serious pests.


It is very palatable.

Chemical analysis and digestibility

Fresh, early bloom material contained 18.9 percent crude protein, 28.6 percent crude fibre, 11.0 percent ash, 2.6 percent ether extract and 38.9 percent nitrogen-free extract in the dry matter (Dougall & Bogdan, 1958).

Natural habitat

Occurs in warm, dry bushveld in Africa

Tolerance to flooding

Stands waterlogged conditions extremely well (Bott, 1978).

Fertilizer requirements

In addition to basic phosphorus and potash where required, it responds well to increasing nitrogen up to 900 kg/ha per year with a 20- 30 percent recovery in the tops (Lloyd, 1970).

Compatibility with other grasses and legumes

It will combine well with lucerne (Medicago saliva).

Genetics and reproduction

It is cross-pollinated, with some lines being incompatible (Hutchinson & Bashaw, 1964).

Seed production and harvesting

P. coloratum ripens over a long period, from the top to the bottom of the seed-head, hence seed harvesting should be by repeated beater or stripper harvesting rather than direct heading (Roe, 1972). It is desirable to have a mixture of lines to ensure good seed setting (Humphreys, 1975). Harvest when one-third of the seed has shattered.

Animal production

It is used increasingly for leys in Africa and Australia. On the Darling Downs black clay soils of south-east Queensland, grazing P. coloratum var. makarikariense cultivars at 7.5 sheep per hectare produced more than 15.5 kg wool per hectare and live-weight gains averaged 29 percent.

Links for the genus:

Grass genera of the world: Information about botany, ecology etc. of the panicum genus; links to photographs of different species

Further reading

Lloyd, 1970, 1971; Lloyd & Scateni, 1968.


The seed shows initial dormancy. The seed requires a ripening period of six months after harvest.

Value for erosion control

Cultivar Pollock, because of its large crown development, is useful in erosion control. Sown on terraces at Machakos, Kenya, P. coloratum var. makarikariense did not prevent erosion (Thomas, 1975).

Tolerance to salinity

It is one of the better grasses to vegetate somewhat saline areas.