Eleusine indica (L.) Gaertn.

Images above: Upper left: Goosegrass seedling (Joseph Neal, North Carolina State University). Upper right: Goosegrass young plant (Antonio DiTommaso, Cornell University). Bottom left: Goosegrass collar (Scott Morris, Cornell University). Bottom right: Goosegrass panicle (Scott Morris, Cornell University).


Other common names:  wiregrass, yard-grass, crowfoot-grass, crows foot grass, silver crabgrass, bullgrass, white crabgrass, Indian goosegrass

Family:  grass family, Poaceae

Habit:  Semi-prostrate summer annual grass.

Description:  The seedling is folded in the bud and its first leaf opens parallel to the ground.  The collar region is broad, white, and lightly hairy, lacks auricles, and has a small (less than 0.04” or 0.1 cm long), membranous, uneven, centrally notched ligule.  Blades are 0.8-1.8” (2-4.6 cm) long by 0.1-0.2” (0.3-0.5 cm) wide, light green, smooth, and distinctly veined.  Leaf sheaths are smooth and light green to white at the base.  Mature plants form a rosette, with sometimes erect, but typically prostrate, stems.  Stems have branches and nodes; they can reach 28’(70 cm) in height.  Blades are 2-8” (5-20 cm) long by 0.1-0.3” (0.3-0.8 cm) wide, occasionally hairy on blade surfaces, and rough-edged.  Sheaths are smooth, light green to white at the base, and hairy near the collar region.  Ligules and collar regions are similar to those of seedlings.  The root system is fibrous.  The multiple inflorescences are more upright than the leaves.  Each stalk has 1-13 spikes radiating from the end.  Spikes are 1.6-6” (4-15 cm) long by 0.1-0.3” (0.3-0.8 cm) wide.  Spikelets are arranged on the spikes in two rows; they each have 3-6 fertile flowers.  Flowers are 0.1-0.3” (0.25-0.8 cm) long; each contains one dark brown, 0.04-0.07” (0.1-0.18 cm) long seed enclosed in white to light tan chaff.  Like all grasses, the apparent seed is covered by a thin, tight layer of fruit tissue.

Similar species: Crabgrass (Digitaria) species have the same mat-forming rosette habit, but can be distinguished from goosegrass by their leaves being rolled in the bud.  Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.) is folded in the bud, but can be distinguished by its long (0.2-0.3” = 0.5-0.8 cm) ligule and panicle-like inflorescence.


Since goosegrass seeds die out of the soil relatively quickly, rotation with perennial sod crops should reduce populations substantially.  Winter grains are well established by the time goosegrass germinates and will compete well against this weed.  Since seed survival in the soil is limited and seedlings only establish from seeds close to the soil surface, moldboard plow the spring following heavy seed production events.  Relatively few seeds will survive to find their way back to the soil surface during subsequent tillage events.

Goosegrass has a long period of emergence throughout the Southeast, and late emerging plants of this fast growing weed can compete with the crop and build the seed bank.  However, its germination is strongly promoted by tillage.  Thus, before planting relatively slow growing summer crops on goosegrass infested land, use a fallow period with shallow tillage at intervals to deplete the surface seed bank before planting.  Tine weed row crops with increasing aggressiveness as the crop establishes, and prolong layby inter-row cultivation as long as possible.  Cultivate shallowly close to the crop rows with sharp, flat pitched half sweeps or vegetable knives to sever shoots from the roots.

In vegetable crops, hoe out plants missed by cultivation before they flower, preferably when the weather will assure rapid drying so that plants do not re-root.  Rogue out large escapes to prevent seed production.  Straw mulch at 2.7 t/A (6 Mg/ha) reduced goosegrass emergence by 90% relative to bare soil (Chauhan and Johnson 2008), and heavier rates would be even more effective.

In all cropping systems, avoid soil compaction and over-fertilization as both are likely to promote goosegrass. 


Origin and distribution:  Goosegrass probably originated in south or east Asia (Holm et al. 1977).  Its present distribution includes the Middle East, south, southeast and east Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, and North, Central and South America (Holm et al. 1977).  It occurs in most of the U.S.A. except for parts of the Pacific Northwest, and Northern Rocky Mountains; it also occurs in Hawaii and southern Quebec and Ontario (USDA Plants).  It is most common in the southeastern and central states (Pleasant 1996).

Seed weight:  0.4 mg (McIvor and Howden 2000) , 0.51 mg (Mohler, unpublished data).

Dormancy and germination:  Freshly matured seeds of goosegrass are dormant (McIvor and Howden 2000).  Fluctuating temperatures, light, nitrate, chilling, scarification, and aging all promote germination.  Germination is negligible at 68 °F (20 °C) or lower (Toole and Toole 1940, Fulwider and Engel 1959, Sharpe and Boyd 2019).  Some freshly shed seeds will germinate at constant temperatures of 68 to 104 °F (20 to 40 °C), but more will germinate if daily temperatures fluctuate within this range by at least 18 °F (10 °C) (Toole and Toole 1940, Fulwider and Engel 1959, Misra 1969, Nishimoto and McCarty 1997, Ismail et al.2002, Sharpe and Boyd 2019).  Light increases germination at constant teemperatures (Toole and Toole 1940, Fulwider and Engel 1959, Misra 1969) and at fluctuating temperatures (Hawton and Drennan 1980, Chauhan and Johnson 2008).  Nitrate also stimulates germination (Hawton and Drennan 1980, Toole and Toole 1940).  About half of scarified seeds will germinate at constant 86 to 104 °F (30 to 40 °C) but none at 122 °F (50 °C).  Chilling wet seeds for 40 days (Misra 1969) or letting the seeds age for several months increases germination (Misra 1969, Chauhan and Johnson 2008) and light is no longer needed to promote germination of seeds that have aged (Misra 1969, Chauhan and Johnson 2008).  Seeds germinate well at pH from 5 to 10, and in saline conditions, but the species cannot germinate under even moderate moisture stress (Chauhan and Johnson 2008, Sharpe and Boyd 2019).

Seed longevity:  Studies of goosegrass seed survival in the soil differ, with some finding few seeds surviving beyond 3 years (Hawton and Drennan 1980, Goss 1924), whereas others have found moderate mortality rates (Chuah et al. 2004) with some seeds remaining as long as 9 or 10 years (Schwerzel and Thomas 1979).  Annual mortality rate computed from the Egley and Chandler (1983) burial study in Mississippi was 44%.  However, an estimated 82% of seeds survived one year burial under turf (Masin et al. 2006).  The species thus forms short to moderately long lived seed banks with the variation probably due to differences in soil, climate and characteristics of the local population.  

Season of emergence:  In the mid-South, goosegrass emerges from April through August (Steckel, no date).  In a Mediterranean climate similar to that of California, seedlings emerged primarily in late spring to early summer (Masin et al. 2005).

Emergence depth:  Goosegrass emerges best at the soil surface or from the top 0.8” (2 cm), only a few seeds can emerge from 2” (5 cm), and none can emerge from deeper than 2.8” (7 cm) (Ismail et al. 2002, Hawton and Drennan 1980, Chauhan and Johnson 2008).

Photosynthetic pathway:  C4 (Elmore and Paul 1983).

Sensitivity to frost:  Goosegrass cannot tolerate more than brief exposure to subfreezing temperatures (Misra 1969).

Drought tolerance:  It can tolerate moderate periods of hot, dry conditions if well rooted (Pleasant 1996), but is not truly drought tolerant (Park 1990).

Mycorrhizae:  Goosegrass is mycorrhizal (Peterson et al. 1985).

Response to fertility:  Goosegrass showed a positive growth response to N application rates up  to 206 lb/A (231 kg/ha), whereas in the same experiment, rice showed no growth response above 138 lb N/A (155 kg/ha).  Nevertheless, goosegrass became less competitive against upland rice as N application increased (Ampong-Nyarko and De Datta 1993).  In an experiment where N, P and K were applied at rates of 45, 45, and 36 lb/A (50, 50 and 40 kg/ha) alone or in combination to a nutrient poor soil, 1) N alone more than doubled the growth of a goosegrass dominated weed community, 2) P alone substantially increased weed cover, but had little effect on weed dry weight unless N was also applied, and 3) K only increased weed dry weight if N and P were also applied (Everaarts 1992).  Goosegrass is most commonly observed on soils with relatively high P, K, Ca, and Mg.  Thus, goosegrass appears to be highly responsive to N and to be generally favored by high fertility conditions.  High pH also benefits goosegrass (Ugen and Wortmann 2001), and it can tolerate pH of 8.6 (Abdallah et al. 2012).

Soil physical requirements:  Goosegrass occurs on many types of soil (Pleasant 1996).  Although soil compaction decreases root growth moderately, it has little affect on shoot growth, and the species is highly competitive in compacted soil (Arrieta et al. 2009).  Although the species is more common on well drained soils (Ugen and Wortmann 2001), it tolerates wet soils (Holm et al. 1977) and grows well under poorly aerated conditions (Waddington and Baker 1965).  It is moderately salt tolerant and excretes excess salt through special glands (Lipschitz and Waisel 1974).   

Response to shade:  Shade substantially reduces growth.  Plants grow more upright when shaded (Holm et al. 1977).

Sensitivity to disturbance:  Goosegrass tolerates traffic well (Arrieta et al. 2009) and responds to it by developing shorter, wider leaves (Sumahara and Ikeda 2003).  The species is highly tolerant of soil contaminated with petroleum (Lu et al. 2010) and heavy metals (Abdallah et al. 2012).

Time from emergence to flowering:  Under favorable conditions, plants will flower in 30 days and shed seeds in 70 days (Holm 1977).  In an experimental planting, plants began flowering at 6 weeks after planting and the number of inflorescences per plant increased progressively for the next six weeks (Hawton 1980).

Pollination:  Plants readily self pollinate (Ng and Ismail 2004), and genetic analysis indicates that selfing is common but that cross pollination also occurs (Werth et al. 1994).

Reproduction:  A single plant can produce up to 140,000 seeds in favorable conditions (Chuah et al. 2004), but average seed production in low competition conditions is more typically 40,000 to 50,000 seeds per plant (Holm et al. 1977).  Plants growing in an oil palm plantation produced an average of 4,800 seeds per plant (Chuah et al. 2004).

Dispersal:  Seeds blow in the wind.  They also disperse with mud on the feet of animals (Holm et al. 1977), shoes (Pleasant 1996), motor vehicles (Cliffortd 1959), and probably on machinery as well.  Goosegrass seeds occur in manue (Rupende et al. 1998) and are dispersed when it is spread. 

Common natural enemies: The leaf-spotting fungus Bipolaris setariae sometimes causes substantial damage (Figliola et al 1988).

Palatability:  Goosegrass has been occassionaly grown for grain in parts of Africa and Asia, and is also sometimes grown for hay (Holm et al. 1977).  It is one of the two ancestors of the the tetraploid crop, finger millet (Eleusine coracana subsp. coracana) (Werth et al. 1994).


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