Zoysia matrella (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Zoysia matrella (L.) Merrill

Protologue: Philip. J. Sc. 7: 230 (1912).
Family: Gramineae
Chromosome number: 2n= 20, 40


Agrostis matrella L. (1771), Zoysia pungens Willd. (1801), Z. tenuifolia Willd. ex Thiele (1834).

Vernacular names

  • Manila grass, Siglap grass, Korean grass (En). Mascarene grass (Am). Chiendent gazon (Fr)
  • Indonesia: jukut kakawatan hijau (Sundanese), rebha sekem-sekeman (Madura), burikit (Ceram)
  • Malaysia: rumput siglap
  • Philippines: damong-alat, barit-baritan (Tagalog), malakuwerdas (Pangasinan). Singapore: Siglap grass
  • Thailand: ya-nuannoi
  • Vietnam: co[n]g co[n]g.

Origin and geographic distribution

Manila grass occurs naturally along the coasts of the Indian Ocean, the Chinese Sea to the Ryukyu Islands, and particularly in all South-East Asian countries. Now it is extensively cultivated (also inland) pantropically.


Manila grass is used as forage on sandy soils in coastal areas where other grasses are not adapted. It is a good sand-binder and is cultivated for lawns.


A mat-forming perennial, often stoloniferous, rarely rhizomatous, up to 35 cm high. Stolons to 45 cm long. Leaf-sheath hairy at the throat; ligule membranous and finely hairy, ca. 0.25 mm long; leaf-blade lanceolate, up to 8 cm × 3 mm when expanded, erectopatent to patent, base more or less cordately contracted into a short pseudo-petiole. Inflorescence a terminal, spike-like raceme, up to 4 cm long, rachis somewhat wavy; pedicels 0-3 mm long; spikelets ovoid-oblongoid, 2-3.8 mm × 1 mm; lower glume usually absent, upper glume 5-nerved; palea absent. Caryopsis with a straight truncate base.

Seedling growth is slow but after 5-8 weeks strong new shoots send out tough rhizomes leading to the formation of a turf mat. There is considerable variation in growth habit, rhizome development and the shape of spikelets.

Two varieties are distinquished:

  • var. matrella : leaf-blade 1.5-2.6 mm wide, more or less spreading; peduncle exserted from the uppermost sheath at anthesis, the raceme distinctly exserted above the foliage, up to 4.2 cm long; distribution as above.
  • var. pacifica Goudswaard: leaf-blade 0.7-1 mm wide, usually erect; peduncle, even in fruit, not or hardly exserted from the uppermost sheath, the raceme therefore not or little exserted above the foliage, up to 1.5 cm long; distribution: Taiwan to the Ryukyu Islands and Loo Choo Island, Marianes, Solomons and in the Moluccas.


Z. matrella can grow up to 300 m altitude, but is primarily adapted to very sandy soils on coastal areas. It is often found covering the ground under coconut plantations on sandy coastal soils.


It is easily established by rhizomes. Frequent grazing is required to stimulate the growth of young leaves, which are palatable to stock. It is low yielding and not suited to cutting for forage. When used as a lawn grass it is frequently mown to keep it weed-free and green.

Genetic resources and breeding

It is unlikely that substantial germplasm collections are being maintained.


The forage yield from this species will inevitably be very low and thus research is not warranted.


  • Gilliland, H.B., Holttum, R.E. & Bor, N.L., 1971. Grasses of Malaya. In: Burkill, H.M. (Editor): Flora of Malaya. Vol. 3. Government Printing Office, Singapore. pp. 109-11l.
  • Goudswaard, P.C., 1980. The genus Zoysia (Gramineae) in Malesia. Blumea 26: 169-175.
  • Häfliger, E. & Scholz, H., 1981. Grass weeds 2. Ciba-Geigy Ltd., Basel, Switzerland. p. 137.
  • Mehra, K.L. & Fachrurozi, Z., 1985. Indonesian economic plant resources: forage crops. Lembaga Biologi Nasional - LIPI, Bogor, No 31. p. 51.


C. Manidool