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A Wonderland of Grasses: Hawaii

Micah-lesThe climate of the Hawaiian Islands is such that a tremendous variety of grasses can grow well and produce fine turfgrass surfaces. I was recently at Hawaii to do some botanizing on the Big Island and on Oahu. Thanks are due to Les Jeremiah, CGCS, who helped guide me to some of the most interesting turfgrass sites; we visited fifteen distinct sites and made a quick survey of the grasses growing at each.

The species added up in a hurry! In just two days we saw:

  • Creeping bentgrass, Agrostis stolonifera
  • Bermudagrass, Cynodon dactylon
  • Hybrid bermudagrass, C. dactylon x C. transvaalensis
  • Broadleaf carpetgrass, Axonopus compressus
  • Narrowleaf carpetgrass, Axonopus affinis
  • Kikuyugrass, Pennisetum clandestinum
  • Manilagrass, Zoysia matrella
  • Japanese lawngrass, Zoysia japonica
  • Seashore paspalum, Paspalum vaginatum
  • Hilograss, Paspalum conjugatum
  • St. Augustinegrass, Stenotaphrum secundatum

North-shoreWe saw what was growing in the sun, what was growing in the shade, what grows under irrigated conditions, and what grows where no irrigation is applied. There is a striking contrast in grass species performance between the relatively sunny climate at Honolulu (at right) and the much cloudier conditions at Hilo (top right). At Hilo, even in full sun, we saw a lot of carpetgrass and manilagrass and very little bermudagrass. In full sun at Honolulu we saw a lot of bermudagrass and much less manilagrass or carpetgrass. And naturally, in unirrigated areas, we saw lots of bermudagrass, and very little seashore paspalum. 

Here is a collection of images showing these grasses and their distinctive appearances.  

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