20 types of grass and their scientific names

Different kinds of grass grow in different places across the world. So, how many types of grass are there?

Many kinds of grass exist today, and they have unique characteristics that distinguish them. The most common factors are their structure and leaves.

This is what makes other types suitable for lawns while others are preferred for décor.

20 common types of grasses (with scientific names)

These are the 20 most common types of grasses, their scientific names, and photos.

1. Napier grass – Pennisetum purpureum

Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum)
Image: Flickr/Jeff Haskins

It’s scientifically referred to as Pennisetum purpureum or Cenchrus purpureus. Napier grass is also known as Uganda grass or elephant grass.

This kind of perennial tropical grass originally grows in the African grasslands.

The plant is popular in uncultivated land since it utilizes low nutrients and water. Napier grass is harvested for grazing and agricultural pest management.

In some instances, the grass is grown in order to improve the fertility of the soil and protect bare land against soil erosion.

2. Pampas grass – Cortaderia selloana

Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana)
Image: LukeLuke68

Pampas grass is scientifically identified as Cortaderia selloana and belongs to the Poaceae family.

It’s a native plant that grows in the southern South America region. It is named Pampas because it majorly grows in the Pampas region of South America.

Pampas grass has creamy white feathery plumes, clumps of lush and grass-like foliage. This kind of grass can be grown in your home.

Pampas is one of the most preferred types of grass for landscaping since it is considered attractive. Its plums are dried then used for decorations in interior design.

3. Lawn grass

Zoysia grass (Zoysia)
Image: Flickr/Chuck & Dani

There are various types of lawn grass, and each has its individual scientific name. Lawn grasses are categorized into either warm-season grasses or cool-season grasses. You can use these two categories to identify different types of lawn grass.

Here’s a list of the most common lawn grasses and their scientific names.

  • Centipede grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides)
  • Fescues (Festuca)
  • Zoysia grass (Zoysia)
  • Kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum)
  • Grama grass (Bouteloua)
  • Turfed hair grass (Deschampsia)

Lawn grasses are mainly used for aesthetic purposes. They are planted in gardens, public spaces, and parks to give them an appealing aesthetic.

The grasses also prevent soil erosion, and control dust spread brought about by high foot traffic.

4. Lemongrass – Cymbopogon citratus

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)
Image: Flickr/Chris Murphy

Lemongrass is one of those plants that can be confusing since it has so many names. Scientifically, it’s referred to as Cymbopogon citratus, but locally, it has names that will require a list.

Lemongrass is also known as:

  • Barbed wiregrass
  • Citronella grass
  • Cochin grass
  • Fever grass
  • Malabar grass
  • Oily heads
  • Silky heads.

Most of these names originated from either its appearance, function, or where it grows.

Lemongrass is native to Australia, Asia, Africa, and the tropical islands. It is significantly grown and harvested for culinary and medicinal uses. It has a strong scent that resembles that of lemons.

5. Kentucky bluegrass – Poa pratensis

Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis)
Image: Flickr/ Pennington

You can also refer to this type of perennial grass as Common Meadow-grass and scientifically as Poa pratensis. 

Its foliage is basal with narrow v-shaped blades. The grass natively grows in North Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America.

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Kentucky bluegrass grows in ditches, roadsides, and lawns. When grown in well-drained fertile soil, it makes a valuable pasture plant. Additionally, the grass is used to set up park lawns and gardens.

However, in the native grasslands of Canada, the presence of Kentucky bluegrass indicates a disrupted and degraded landscape. Hence, it is considered an unwelcomed exotic species.

6. Silvergrass – Miscanthus

Silvergrass (Miscanthus)
Image: Flickr/Eriko

Silvergrass natively grows in the Pacific Island, Africa, and Eurasia and is scientifically named Miscanthus and has other local names like fairy grass, Eulalia, maiden grass, and morning grass.

The grass produces beautiful flowers that are large and with feathery plumes. They also have attractive foliage that starts out as green then turns to orange or bronze in autumn.

Silvergrass grows in well-drained fertile soil and in an area that receives maximum sunlight. Placing it in a shed will lead to the production of fewer flowers.

Although it can be cultivated throughout the year, it is best to plant it during autumn or spring.

7. Buffalo grass – Bouteloua dactyloides

Buffalo grass (Bouteloua dactyloides)
Image: Flickr/Collin

The scientific name for buffalo grass is Bouteloua dactyloides. It natively grows in North America, especially in Mexico, the United States, and Canada.

The grass is short. This characteristic makes it perfect for use as a turfgrass in lawns and for forage.

Something interesting about this type of grass is that in history, settlers used buffalo grass’s sod to construct sod houses.

8. Fountain grass – Pennisetum setaceum

Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum)
Image: Flickr/Smir

Fountain grass natively grows in America, Africa, Latin, Australia, and Asia. Its scientific name is Pennisetum setaceum and it is a perennial plant. The grass is cultivated in tropical and warm temperature areas in the world.

Species of the fountain grass, such as pearl millet, are used as food crops, while others are used for grazing cattle. Some are grown as ornamental grass.

9. Perennial ryegrass – Lolium perenne

Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne)
Image: Flickr/Tiggrx

Perennial ryegrass is also locally known as ray grass, English ryegrass, or winter ryegrass. Its scientific name is Lolium perenne.

It is natively from the northern part of America, Asia, and Europe. However, perennial ryegrass is grown and naturalized all over the world.

The grass is grown on fertile soil to produce high yields for it to be used as a pasture and forage plant as well as in many pasture seed mixes. It has other benefits, such as its attractive turf that is used in lawns, baseball fields, and golf course fairways.

Compared to other cool-season grasses, perennial ryegrass can tolerate high foot traffic, making it suitable for use in schools and parks.

10. Common couch – Elymus repens

Common couch (Elymus repens)
Image: Flickr/John Tann

This kind of grass is scientifically referred to as Elymus repens. It has other common local names such as quick grass, scotch grass, witch grass, twitchquack grass, and dog grass. 

Common couch grows in most parts of Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is mainly used to control soil erosion and forage and is considered a weed in areas outside the native regions.

11. Bentgrass – Agrostis

Bentgrass (Agrostis)
Image: Flickr/Uncle Millborn

This plant from the Poaceae family grows in temperate and cool areas in the world as well as at high altitudes in the tropical and subtropical regions.

In its native regions like North America, it is grown as forage and turf plants. In other places, it is considered a weed and an invasive species.

The grass has been bred to GMO creeping bentgrass that can be found anywhere globally. Its primary use is as lawn grass, and for this reason, bentgrass is one of the types of grass for landscaping fairways, greens, and golf courses.

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Its advantages allow it to be used for turf since bentgrass has an appeasing deep green appearance, can handle foot traffic, has a shallow root system that is dense and thick for seeding and fast-growing, and can be mowed to a short length without any damage.

12. St. Augustine grass – Stenotaphrum secundatum

St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum)
Image: Flickr/Dũng Đỗ Hữu

The botanical name for St. Augustine grass is Stenotaphrum secundatum. Its local names in Australia and South Africa are buffalo turf and buffalo grass, respectively.

It is one of the most common lawn grasses and is commonly grown in warm temperature areas like the tropical and subtropical regions.

It is the best choice of grass for pasture and ranching compared to other grasses like zoysia grass and Bermuda grass. This is because the blue-green color of its broad grass blades makes it attractive.

In addition, the grass thrives in well-drained soil and is able to maintain its color in extreme temperatures. The downside to it is St. Augustine won’t grow into thick grass under shade. Instead, the lawn will be thin and spindly.

13. Cogon grass – Imperata cylindrical

Cogon grass (Imperata cylindrica)
Image: Flickr/Hồ Tân

Cogon grass’s alternative names are blady grass, Japanese blood grass, and kunai grass, or if you prefer to use its scientific name, Imperata cylindrica. It is native to Asia, South Europe, Australia, Africa, and Melanesia.

Cogon grass is cultivated for its extensive uses and benefits in its native countries. In the southeast of Asia, cogon grass is used to thatch roofs of traditional houses.

It is widely grown for the purpose of covering ground in order to stabilize soil in beaches and other areas that are prone to soil erosion. Cogon grass is also used in weaving mats and bags, paper-making, and as a traditional medicine for the Chinese.

14. Ryegrass – Lolium

Ryegrass (Lolium)
Image: Flickr/Mike Greenwood

The ryegrass is a turfgrass that is characterized by its bunch-like growth habit. It is natively cultivated in Asia, Europe, and North Africa.

This type of grass is naturalized in Australia, America, and the oceanic islands. Its botanical name is Lolium, and some of its species are grouped into different types of lawn grass.

Its high nutritional value makes it a good livestock feed that is used as pasture, hay, and grazing. Ryegrass is also fundamental in controlling soil erosion.

However, some of its species are regarded as weeds and threaten wheat production and the cultivation of other crops.

15. Switch grass – Pancium virgatum

Switch grass (Pancium virgatum)
Image: Flickr/Josh Gillespie

Switch grass’s scientific name is Panicum virgatum. The grass natively grows in Canada, the United States of America, and Mexico. It is also found in central North America along roadsides, in prairies, and native grass pastures.

It is useful in the production of biomass energy, control soil erosion, grazing, forage, and as ground cover for soil conservation.

Farmers use it in multiple ways, including as a substitute for white straw in making hay and pasture for cattle. They also use it as a substrate to grow mushrooms, livestock bedding, and straw bale housing.

16. Feather reed grass – Calamagrostis acutiflora

Feather reed grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora)
Image: Flickr/Scott Schryvers

Feather reed grass is a perennial grass that originates from Europe. It joins the group of different grass types that are hybrids.

The grass is a hybrid of Calamagrostis epigejos and Calamagrostis arundinacea. Scientifically, it is identified as Calamagrostis acutiflora.

The grass is known for its clumping nature and its resistance to heavy storms. Feather reed grass remains upright even after a substantial amount of wing or storm blows over it.

It has various uses that include as a specimen, mass planting, and growing in borders and narrow spaces as it has an excellent vertical accent.

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17. Chinese fountain – Pennisetum alopecuroides

Chinese fountain (Pennisetum alopecuroides)
Image: Flickr/Tangled Bank

This Asian and Australian native perennial grass is known to many by other names.

You can refer to it as foxtail fountain grassChinese Pennisetum, dwarf fountain grass, or swamp foxtail grass. Its scientific name is Pennisetum alopecuroides.

The grass type thrives in moist, well-drained soil and in a shade that receives sunlight. Favorable conditions for the growth of the Chinese fountain is in area temperatures don’t fall below -5 degrees centigrade like the coastal areas.

The color of the leaves and flowers changes with the annual seasons. The flowers are normally yellow-green but turn dark purple in summer.

Its foliage is mid-green in spring and summer, then turns yellow-brown in autumn and winter.

18. Big bluestem – Andropogon gerardi

Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi)
Image: Flickr/Bluestem

Others call it turkey foot, tall bluestem, and bluejoint, but it is scientifically referred to as Andropogon gerardi.

This type of grass is known for its tall length and is familiar in central and eastern North America. It is cultivated in the Great Plains and grasslands.

Big bluestem’s tall appearance makes it suitable for use as cattle and horse forage as it is cut to become hay. In addition, its high protein content makes it a preferred choice for ranching by ecologists and cattle ranchers.

The grass is also popular among landscapers since it is beautiful on both lawns and gardens.

19. Beach grass – Ammophila

Beach grass (Ammophila)
Image: Flickr/Katerina DiChiara

Ammophila, commonly known as beach grass, bentgrass, or marram grass, grows in coastal regions, particularly on the North Atlantic Ocean coastal line.

Its stems creep underground, allowing it to flourish under the high winds and shifting sand conditions. The stems also stabilize and prevent erosion in the coastal region.

Back in the day, around the 18th century, beach grass was used for cattle fodder, fuel, and thatch.

Women used the grass to make mats, covers for haystacks, and whitewashing brushes. It was mainly for thatching in areas near the sea in Britain.

20. Vetiver – Chrysopogon zizanioides

Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides)
Image: Flickr/TreesForTheFuture

The perennial bunchgrass is also known as khus and its scientific name is Chrysopogon zizanioides. It is native to India and also grows in tropical regions like Indonesia and Haiti. The grass has tall stems with long, thin, and rigid leaves and purple-brownish flowers.

Vetiver grass has versatile uses in soil, food, animals, and skin. For skincare, oil is extracted from the roots and used for cosmetics to make perfumes, soaps, and creams. It is also used in ayurvedic soap and aromatherapy.

Its leaves are fed to goats, sheep, horses, and cows for their nutritional value. Vetiver is a key ingredient in the kitchen. It is used as a flavoring agent in drinks such as milkshakes, yogurt, iced drinks, and other beverages in the form of khus syrup.

Vetiver grass also conserves soils by controlling soil erosion. This is made possible with its roots that grow downwards, stabilizing river banks, terraces, and rice paddies, eventually preventing sheet erosion.

There are many other inexhaustible uses of Vetiver grass that encourage its cultivation.

In conclusion

Lawn grass is the most common type of grass. The most popular types of lawn grass grow depending on the season.

For example, Kentucky bluegrass, fescue, and perennial ryegrass are suitable in the cool season. Others such as zoysia grass, centipede grass, Bahia grass, and Bermuda grass are suitable for the warm season.

Whether you are looking for the best types of grass for landscaping, fencing, or for livestock, you have plenty of options to select from the above list.