(Photos: E. Cousins, a patch of kikuyu, one stem, close-up of sheaf and hairs on leaf; Cape Jervis)
Kikuyu is well-known by many as a hardy grass for lawns. This hardy African perennial can withstand the backyard cricket matches, and survive just about any summer. It’ll also spread readily along roadsides or over vacant land with a two-pronged attack: using above-ground creeping stems (called ‘stolons’) and below-ground ones (called ‘rhizomes’). The stolons form a mat with short, folded leaf blades and many joints. Each leaf forms a sheaf around the stem before branching off; leaves can be slightly hairy, and get coarse as they age. Although essentially prostrate, put a barrier in its way, such as a fence or tree stump, and the kikuyu will climb all over and possibly through it! The stolons and rhizomes are extremely effective at spreading kikuyu (more so than its seed), one reason kikuyu has been labelled an environmental weed in S.A.