This is a perennial grass that spreads via stolons. The stolons may be pink or red. They can be robust; stolons measuring 1.6 meters have been observed. The stems are upright to erect and reach 60 to 100 centimeters tall. At times they may extend along the ground for a distance, rooting where stem nodes contact the soil. The leaves are up to 30 centimeters long; the upper leaves longer than the lower. The leaves are green to gray-green. The inflorescence is a bunch of very hairy racemes each a few centimeters long. Parts of the inflorescence can be purplish in color. The spikelet has a twisted awn up to 2 centimeters long. The grass is aromatic, with a scent like ginger when it is crushed.
In general, it requires tropical climates, and it does not tolerate frost. It is able to grow in many types of soils. It withstands drought and disturbance, and it can sprout up in dry, degraded habitat, such as roadsides. It survives short-term waterlogging and fire.
This grass is used as a lawn, as it can form a dense mat. It is occasionally seeded in landscaping projects, along roadsides and in degraded fields, for example. It is planted for erosion control and mine reclamation. It has been used in no-till systems, in which it is grown in a vegetable field, then killed off to provide ready mulch for the vegetable crop.
The grass is well known as a fodder for livestock. It is planted as a pasture grass and used for hay and silage. It tolerates trampling, grazing, and cutting. In heavily grazed fields it is favored, becoming dominant as other grasses are eliminated by grazing pressure. Palatability is reduced when the grass flowers.
Cultivars include 'Ghana Marvel 20', a high yield type developed in India, and the rust-resistant 'Dawson', 'Keppel', and 'Medway' from Queensland.
A widely introduced species, it has become naturalized in many regions, and at times has become a noxious weed. It has been especially difficult to control in the Virgin Islands. Its vigorous stoloniferous growth helps it outcompete native plants. It produces choking mats and shades out other species. The hairy seeds can be spread when they stick to animals.
Bothriochloa pertusa is very similar to the mainly African Bothriochloa insculpta, differing mainly in its fewer and shorter racemes and its more stoloniferous, less robust habit. Plants approaching Bothriochloa insculpta occur in India but DeWet & Higgins (in Phyton 20:205-211, 1963) believe that these should be considered as a variety of Bothriochloa pertusa. Similarly they feel that African plants resembling Bothriochloa pertusa should be considered as a variety of Bothriochloa insculpta. Apparently the two species are genetically isolated and do not interbreed (DeWet & Higgins, l.c.). Were it not for this fact there might be some doubt as to whether they can be maintained as two species. A purely geographical distinction without adequate discriminatory morphological characters is, however, clearly unsatisfactory.
Bothriochloa pertusa is highly esteemed as a fodder grass and can also be made into hay. It will stand up to constant grazing and trampling and is able to withstand moderate periods of drought. In many specimens the culms creep about on the surface of the soil and root at the nodes.
Perennials, Terrestrial, not aquatic, Stolons or runners present, Stems nodes swollen or brittle, Stems erect or ascending, Stems geniculate, decumbent, or lax, sometimes rooting at nodes, Stems mat or turf forming, Stems caespitose, tufted, or clustered, Stems terete, round in cross section, or polygonal, Stem nodes bearded or hairy, Stem internodes hollow, Stems with inflorescence less than 1 m tall, Stems, culms, or scapes exceeding basal leaves, Leaves mostly basal, below middle of stem, Leaves conspicuously 2-ranked, distichous, Leaves sheathing at base, Leaf sheath mostly open, or loose, Leaf sheath smooth, glabrous, Leaf sheath and blade differentiated, Leaf blades linear, Leaf blades 2-10 mm wide, Leaf blades mostly flat, Leaf blades mostly glabrous, Leaf blades more or less hairy, Leaf blades glaucous, blue-green, or grey, or with white glands, Ligule present, Ligule an unfr inged eciliate membrane, Inflorescence terminal, Inflorescence with 2 or more spikes, fascicles, glomerules, heads, or clusters per culm, Inflorescence a panicle with narrowly racemose or spicate branches, Inflorescence a panicle with digitately arranged spicate branches, Inflorescence branches more than 10 to numerous, Inflorescence branches paired or digitate at a single node, Peduncle or rachis scabrous or pubescent, often with long hairs, Rachis dilated, flat, central axis to which spikelets are attached, Rachis grooved, Flowers bisexual, Spikelets pedicellate, Spikelets dorsally compressed or terete, Spikelet less than 3 mm wide, Spikelets with 1 fertile floret, Spikelets with 2 florets, Spikelets paired at rachis nodes, Spikelets in paired units, 1 sessile, 1 pedicellate, Pedicellate spikelet rudimentary or absent, usually sterile, Spikelets bisexual, Spikelets disarticulating below the glumes, Spikelets disarticulating beneath or between the florets, Spikelets falling with parts of disarticulating rachis or pedicel, Rachilla or pedicel glabrous, Glumes present, empty bracts, Glumes 2 clearly present, Glumes equal or subequal, Glumes equal to or longer than adjacent lemma, Glume surface hairy, villous or pilose, Glume with circular pits, Glumes 3 nerved, Lemmas thin, chartaceous, hyaline, cartilaginous, or membranous, Lemma 1 nerved, Lemma glabrous, Lemma apex acute or acuminate, Lemma distinctly awned, more than 2-3 mm, Lemma with 1 awn, Lemma awn 1-2 cm long, Lemma awned from tip, Lemma awn once geniculate, bent once, Lemma margins thin, lying flat, Lemma straight, Stamens 3, Styles 2-fid, deeply 2-branched, Stigmas 2, Fruit - caryopsis.
Stoloniferous sward-forming perennial; culms erect or geniculately ascending, up to 60 cm high. Leaf-blades 5-30 cm long, 2.5-5 mm wide, the lower shorter than the upper and crowded at the base of the culm. Inflorescence subdigitate, bearing 3-8 (-13) shortly pedunculate racemes; racemes 2.5-5 (-7.5) cm long (the lowest longer than the central axis), pilose. Sessile spikelet narrowly elliptic, 3.5-4.5 mm long; lower glume firmly cartilaginous, ± hairy below the middle, glossy, pitted above the middle with a deep circular pit or 2-pitted, the second pit at or about the middle, blunt, slightly shorter than the pointed upper glume; awn 15-20 mm long. Pedicelled spikelet glabrous on the back, pitless or rarely pitted.
Perennial, often stoloniferous, sward forming. Culms erect or geniculately ascending, up to 100 cm tall, 5- or more-noded, nodes bearded. Leaf sheaths keeled; leaf blades linear, 5–20 × 0.1–0.4 cm, tubercle-based hairs on both surfaces or abaxial surface glabrous, apex acute; ligule 0.5–2 mm. Inflorescence composed of 3–5(–)8 racemes, subdigitate; racemes 3–8 cm, tinged purplish; rachis internodes and pedicels ciliate with long silky hairs. Sessile spikelet 3–4.5 mm; lower glume narrowly elliptic, cartilaginous, back concave, 5–7-veined, glossy, sparsely hirtellous to silky-pilose below middle, a circular pit above hairs, 2-keeled, margins keeled and scabrid near apex; awn of upper lemma 1–2 cm. Pedicelled spikelet male or barren, pur-plish, subequal to sessile spikelet, glabrous. Fl. and fr. Jul–Oct. 2n = 40, 60.