Environ. Horticulture, Pears, Cherries, and Viticulture
University of California
Environ. Horticulture, Pears, Cherries, and Viticulture

'UC Verde' Buffalograss

Buchloe dactyloides, (boo-KLOH-ee dak-ty-LO-id-eez)

Buffalograss is one of the key species that was originally present in the prairies of the midwest. The variety UC Verde was developed for California conditions by UC researchers at Riverside and Davis. UC Verde is available through Florasource, Ltd.

Lorraine Van Kekerix and Fred Schack planting UC Verde plugs, 9/20/10
Lorraine Van Kekerix and Fred Schack planting UC Verde plugs, 9/20/10
 UC Verde is only planted by plugs, which are usually spaced 12 in. apart. We used a sheet of plywood to reduce compaction, but this isn't essential. UC Verde grows to only 4-6 in. tall. Like bermudagrass, it spreads by stolons, but unlike bermudagrass it has no underground rhizomes. It has very few flowerheads (so very little pollen) or seeds.

It is very competitive with weeds once established, and it requires mowing only every 2-3 weeks for a mowed lawn look, or as little as once a year for a more natural look.

  

An important feature is that it requires less water -- 50-75% less than tall fescue, and even much less than bermudagrass. It is also highly resistant to diseases and insect pests. Its main drawback is that, like bermudagrass, it goes fully dormant in the winter when hard frosts occur. People have used biodegradable green dye during the winter, which we plan to try.

 

UC Verde plots, October 2010 (after the 1st weeding)
UC Verde plots, October 2010 (after the 1st weeding)
Because it is active in summer, it should be planted at the beginning of the warm season (e.g., May) in order to allow it to get off to a strong start so it can outcompete weeds. At this timing, it should fill in within 6-8 weeks.

It can be planted in mid-summer also, but more careful attention to watering is required since the small plugs can dry out quickly.

 

 

 

UC Verde spread, 10/15/10
UC Verde spread, 10/15/10

 

In our turf demonstration, we planted on Sept. 20, 2010. The plants began to grow, but then went dormant so the cool-season weeds had full reign.

 

 

 

Can you find the buffalograss plugs among the weeds? 12/15/10
Can you find the buffalograss plugs among the weeds? 12/15/10
 

 

 

 

 

The site was previously a weedy field for many years. We didn't use pre-emergent herbicides and couldn't use post-emergents because a small amount of green tissue remained on the young plugs through the winter.

Also, we are using only organic methods on the plots.

 

 

 

Weeding in UC Verde plot, 10/9/10
Weeding in UC Verde plot, 10/9/10
 

  

We thoroughly weeded each plot about 4 times. In retrospect, we should have planted in May and spent the winter rototilling or spraying herbicide to kill weeds. However, the weed seed bank became depleted, the grass filled in densely, and almost no weeds grew in summer 2011.

 

 

 

UC Verde plots, 5/13/11
UC Verde plots, 5/13/11
 

 

 

But in May the plots filled in (these aren't weeds), and UC Verde looks great. You can still see where the original plugs were.

Notice the lighter green color compared to the adjacent tall fescue (on right).

 

 

 

No water stress 8/16/11
No water stress 8/16/11
 

 

 

 

 

By mid-August, the UC Verde is completely filled in and the irrigation trial is underway.

The UC Verde was the only turf in the trial that didn't suffer from the 40% ETo watering.

 

 

 

Chuck spraying a 6' x 6' square, Nov. 30, 2011
Chuck spraying a 6' x 6' square, Nov. 30, 2011
 

 

 

 

  

To demonstrate how winter dormancy and browning can be overcome, we sprayed a 6' x 6' square in each of the three UC Verde plots with green turf colorant. Turf colorant is available at most irrigation/landscape supply stores. The product we used is Green Lawnger. Achieving uniform coverage required more spray volume than the label stated.

Turf colorant is not organic, but is harmless to turf and likely has little effect on the environment. A single application is supposed to last through the winter.

 

Section of plot sprayed with turf colorant, Nov. 30, 2011. Annual ryegrass is adjacent to (above/left) sprayed section.
Section of plot sprayed with turf colorant, Nov. 30, 2011. Annual ryegrass is adjacent to (above/left) sprayed section.
 

The colorant made the turf dark green and quite attractive.

In another square in each plot, in mid-November 2011 we cut the UC Verde to 3/4", planted annual ryegrass seed, and covered it with a thin layer of compost (adjacent to sprayed section). It will require mowing and fertilizing periodically in winter, somewhat reducing its value as an eco-friendly turf but being an organically acceptable method.

 

 

 

 

UC Verde was planted adjacent to the Graduate School of Management in Sept. 2009 (again, at the wrong time but it worked anyway). The following photos show its progress:

UC Verde planting - UCD, September 9, 2009
UC Verde planting - UCD, September 9, 2009

UC Verde - UCD, June, 2010
UC Verde - UCD, June, 2010

UC Verde - UCD, February, 2011
UC Verde - UCD, February, 2011

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