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15 common forage grasses and legumes in the Philippines

The quality of pasture available for animals directly impacts the quality of meat they produce. During the wet seasons in the Philippines, animals feed mostly on forage grasses, which thrive in this period.

However, during the dry season, leguminous plants such as ipil-ipil trees and pigeon peas can be an alternative source of high-quality proteins and energy. This is because they can withstand harsh climatic conditions while maintaining high nutrient content.

Therefore, farmers are encouraged to combine forage grasses and legumes in the Philippines to ensure quality feeds for the animals throughout the year.

This article will explore 10 forage grasses and legumes in the Philippines, including their scientific names, local names, and origins.

We shall also look at their descriptions, which can help you in the identification process.

1. Ipil-ipil – Leucaena leucocephala

Ipil-ipil - Leucaena leucocephala
Ipil-ipil – Leucaena leucocephala. Image: Flickr/J.B
  • Scientific name: Leucaena leucocephala
  • English name: Ipil-ipil/white leadtree
  • Local name: Agho
  • Annual or perennial: Perennial
  • Grass, sedge or broadleaf: Broadleaf

Ipil-ipil is a fast-growing leguminous tree whose leaves are one of the best forage for goats in the Philippines.

The evergreen tree can grow up to 6 m and a width of about 30 cm in just 2 years. Typically, Ipil-ipil has bi-pinnate leaves and small white flowers at the tip end of the branches.

Ipil-ipil is believed to have originated from Mexico and Central America. The best way to get rid of ipil-ipil is to use herbicides to kill young plants.

You can also uproot the entire seedlings manually or through tilling.

2. Gliricidia – Gliricidia sepium

Gliricidia - Gliricidia sepium
Gliricidia – Gliricidia sepium. Image: Flickr/ Forest
  • Scientific name: Gliricidia sepium
  • English name: Gliricidia/quickstick
  • Local name: Kakawate
  • Annual or perennial: Perennial
  • Grass, sedge or broadleaf: Broadleaf

Gliricidia is another medium-sized tree that is part of forage grasses and legumes in the Philippines. The tree is native to Mexico and Colombia and belongs to the Fabaceae family.

Kakawate can grow up to 12 m high and has a smooth stem ranging from brownish-deep red to whitish-grey color.

The leaves are green, smooth and binate, with a cluster of pink and white coloured flowers at the tip end.

The best way to remove Gliricidia is to manually uproot seedlings through tilling or using a hand shovel.

3. Calliandra – Calliandra calothyrsus

  • Scientific name: Calliandra calothyrsus
  • English name: Red Calliandra
  • Local name: Calliandra
  • Annual or perennial: Perennial
  • Grass, sedge or broadleaf: Broadleaf

Calliandra is a short, thornless, leguminous plant in the Fabaceae family, mainly loved for its fodder qualities.

This perennial plant originated from Central America and Mexico but has been introduced to other tropical countries.

A typical Calliandra grows up to a height of 5-6 m with a diameter of about 30 cm. The trunk color can range from white to red or blackish brown.

These evergreen leaves are bi-pinnately compound, with spike-like clusters of flowers at the apex that are purplish-red in color. Their pods are normally flattened, containing 3-25 seeds.

Best removal methods include uprooting the entire plant by hand or its seedlings and cutting at the stem base.

4. Townsville stylo – Stylosanthes humilis

Townsville stylo - Stylosanthes humilis
Townsville styloStylosanthes humilis. Image: Flickr/Ahmad
  • Scientific name: Stylosanthes humilis
  • English name: Townsville stylo
  • Local name: Magsaysay
  • Annual or perennial: Annual
  • Grass, sedge or broadleaf: Broadleaf
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Considered one of the best forage legumes in the Philippines, Magsaysay is a warm-season, annual plant that typically grows up to 70 cm.

The plant has a narrow, hairy stem with thin, pointed trifoliate leaves and a cluster of bright-yellow flowers.

Townsville stylo plant is native to parts of North and South America, Mexico and Cuba.

Effective methods to remove the Magsaysay plant completely include repeat use of herbicide, heavily grazing or burning the field during the dry season.

5. Siratro – Macroptilium atropurpureum

Macroptilium atropurpureum
Macroptilium atropurpureum. Image: Flickr/LTR Farm
  • Scientific name: Macroptilium atropurpureum
  • English name: Siratro/ Purple bush-bean
  • Local name: Siratro
  • Annual or perennial: Perennial
  • Grass, sedge or broadleaf: Broadleaf

Siratro is a perennial climbing leguminous plant with a deep, thick taproot used as legume foliage.

The plant has a long, thin, hairy stem that can reach up to 5 m long but only 2mm wide. Siratro’s leaves are pinnately trifoliate, dark green and hairy. They form a cluster of red or dark purple flowers, which produce pods with 5-10 seeds.

Siratro is believed to have originated from Central and South America and Caribbean islands before it spread to the Philippines.

The most effective way to eliminate Siratro is by hand-pulling the entire plant, but mowing or chipping it off can work.

6. Para grass – Brachiaria mutica

Brachiaria mutica
Brachiaria mutica. Image: Flickr/ LTR Farm
  • Scientific name: Brachiaria mutica
  • English name: Para grass
  • Local name: Para grass
  • Annual or perennial: Perennial
  • Grass, sedge or broadleaf: Grass

Para grass is a fast-growing, high-quality forage in the Poaceae family, with long runners that can extend up to 5 m long.

It is one of the most common perennial grasses used in pastures in the Philippines due to its high nutrient contents.

The grass is native to tropical parts of north and central Africa but has spread to other tropical regions. It is commonly known to have hollow stems erect towards the endpoint.

A typical para grass leaf blade is hairy and dark green, extending 30 cm long and 2 cm wide. The flowers are made of 5 cm long spikes, which mature into seeds.

Para grass can be eliminated by manually hand pulling it, mulching and shading off the grass with other plants.

7. Pegion pea – Cajanus cajan

Cajanus cajan
Cajanus cajan. Image: Flickr/naturgucker.de
  • Scientific name: Cajanus cajan
  • English name: Pegion pea
  • Local name: Kadios
  • Annual or perennial: Perennial
  • Grass, sedge or broadleaf: Broadleaf

Native to India, the Nile River and West Africa, Kadios is a perennial shrub in the Fabaceae family whose pods, husks and leaves are one of the best forage for goats.

A typical pigeon pea grows to about 2 m tall with a long tap root penetrating 2 m deep. The erect stem is woody and branches upwards.

The green leaves are trifoliate, with 5-10 yellow to purple flowers at the apex of the branch. Its pods are flat, containing 2-10 seeds.

The best method of removing pigeon peas is by uprooting the entire plant, but also cutting at the stem base can eliminate the plant.

8. Flemingia – Flemengia macrophylla

Flemengia macrophylla
Flemengia macrophylla. Image: Flickr/Mayur
  • Scientific name: Flemengia macrophylla
  • English name: Flemingia
  • Local name: Flemingia
  • Annual or perennial: Perennial
  • Grass, sedge or broadleaf: Broadleaf
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As part of the Fabaceae family, Flemingia is a leguminous shrub commonly used for animal fodder. The plant is native to sub-Saharan Africa, Yemen, Australasia and tropical Asia.

This perennial plant can grow up to 1.5 m high and has a woody prostate stem. Flemingia leaves are flat, medium-sized, and hairy. The flowers are in inflorescences and produce aerial fruits about 15 m long.

Common methods to eradicate flemingia include using herbicides, tilling to expose the roots to the sun, or manually uprooting the plant completely.  

9. Star grass – Cynodon plestostachyus

Cynodon plestostachyus. Image: Cynodon spp
  • Scientific name: Cynodon plestostachyus
  • English name: Star grass
  • Local name: Star grass
  • Annual or perennial: Perennial
  • Grass, sedge or broadleaf: Grass

Star grass is a perennial tropical grass that belongs to the Poaceae family. The grass is native to the East African regions of Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda.

Star grass has thin stolons and rhizomes that produce roots at the nodes. The stems are usually erect with few branches. Star grass leaves are flat, hairy and about 10 cm long. They form inflorescence with 4-8 spike-like branches at the end.

Although Star grass is very aggressive, it can be controlled through mechanical means like manually removing the rhizomes, mulching and shading off the grass by other plants.

10. Napier grass – Cenchrus purpureus

Cenchrus purpureus
Cenchrus purpureus. Image: Flickr/Forest
  • Scientific name: Cenchrus purpureus
  • English name: Napier grass/ elephant grass
  • Local name: Napier grass
  • Annual or perennial: Perennial
  • Grass, sedge or broadleaf: Grass

Napier grass, also known as elephant grass, constitutes another common class of forage grasses and legumes in the Philippines used for feeding cattle. Napier grass belongs to the Poaceae family and is native to the African grasslands.

The grass is very tall and can grow to a height of up to 8m in four months. The leaves are flat, hairy on the surface and strap-like, growing several feet long. The flowers are cylindrical spike-like and are greenish-tan in color.

Although tilling can control Napier grass seedlings, care should be taken as it can spread through cuttings and rhizomes. The use of chemicals can also be effective.

11. Guinea grass – Megathyrsus maximum

Megathyrsus maximum
Megathyrsus maximum. Image: Flickr/Forest
  • Scientific name: Megathyrsus maximum
  • English name: Guinea grass
  • Local name: Guinea grass
  • Annual or perennial: Perennial
  • Grass, sedge or broadleaf: Grass

Guinea grass is another perennial grass used for making silage and hay for cattle in the Philippines. The grass is native to the African continent.

Megathyrsus maximum is a coarse grass which can grow up to 3.5 m tall. Roots can emerge when the stem touches the ground at the nodes.

It has light-green blade-shaped leaves, which are more at the base of the stem and less at the top. The grass forms a loose cluster of flowers with green to purple spikelets.

Common removal methods include tilling to expose the roots, use of post-emergence herbicides and spot spraying.

12. Crabgrass – Digitaria

Crabgrass in lawn
Megathyrsus maximum. Image: Yesim Sahin
  • Scientific name: Digitaria
  • English name: Crabgrass
  • Local name: Gemegeba
  • Annual or perennial: Annual and perennial
  • Grass, sedge or broadleaf: Grass
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Commonly known as Gemegeba in the Philippines, Crabgrass is a fast-growing perennial or annual legume grass that thrives in tropical and warm temperatures. It originated in Europe and Asia before it spread to other parts of the world.

The grass grows very short to the ground with stems that resemble crab’s legs that spread across from the centre. The linear dark-green leaves are hairy and many at the base but loosely scattered towards the end of the stolon.

It forms a finger-like flower head with 4-6 spikes at the end, which contains the seeds.

You can kill crabgrass by spraying herbicides early before it has produced seeds. Hand pulling, mowing or using a hand towel to uproot the grass can also be effective. You should also consider using other effective crabgrass removal tools.

13. Nut grass – Cyperus rotundus

Cyperus rotundus
Cyperus rotundus. Image: Flickr/Forest
  • Scientific name: Cyperus rotundus
  • English name: Nut grass
  • Local name: Boto-botones
  • Annual or perennial: Perennial
  • Grass, sedge or broadleaf: Sedge

Cyperus rotundus is a perennial grass-like sedge that belongs to the Cyperaceae family.

It has a straight triangular stem that splits into three purplish antennae-like seedpods at the top. Boto-botones is native to Africa, South Asia, and Central and Southern Europe but are now found across the globe.

Nut grass can grow as high as 1.4 m tall, with dark green leaves at the base of the plant. This grass produces a cluster of bisexual flowers with 3-8 spikes and the fruit in the form of a triangular achene.

It’s important to note that nut grass is resistant to most herbicides. So it is best removed while young via hand pulling or mowing and leaving the roots exposed to the sun to dry out.

14. Kikuyu grass – Cenchrus clandestinus

Kikuyu grass
Kikuyu grass
  •   Scientific name: Cenchrus clandestinus
  •   English name: Kikuyu grass
  •   Local name: Kikuyu
  • Annual or perennial: Perennial
  •    Grass, sedge or broadleaf: Grass

The tropical grass Cenchrus clandestinus is native to East Africa, specifically Kenya’s highlands, and forms a great livestock grazing pasture. It is considered a noxious weed that belongs to the Poaceae family.

Kikuyu grass is rhizomatous and can grow up to 150 mm tall. It has short, flattened green leaves extending 1.5 cm long. The roots have nodes that shoot up grass blades.

The best way to get rid of the grass is by mowing, tilling or hand pulling when it’s still immature and exposing the roots to the sun to dry.

15. Cogongrass – Imperata cylindrica

Imperata cylindrica
Imperata cylindrica. Image: Flickr/Chak
  • Scientific name: Imperata cylindrica
  • English name: Cogongrass
  • Local name: Kugon
  • Annual or perennial: Perennial
  • Grass, sedge or broadleaf: Grass

Lastly, we have Cogongrass, a highly flammable grass commonly used as a pasture in the Philippines. This perennial grass is believed to have originated from Asia, Australia, Africa and Southern Europe.

Kugon can grow up to 3 m tall and has long, hard, cream-coloured rhizomes that constitute about 60% of its total mass. The grass has bright yellow-green leaves, hairy on the upper side and hairless on the underside.

The best method to remove Cogongrass is to mow when the grass is still young or burn the field prior to herbicide application in order to remove the built-up thatch

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