Cotton panic grass

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Digitaria brownie

CATEGORY: C4  perennial


  • Tufted, hairy, warm-season perennial,  usually 25-45cm high, but sometimes to 80cm
  • Numerous slender branched stems, that are  usually hairy at their base
  • Flat, soft leaves become twisted and  crumpled with age and the leaf edges are often wavy
  • Seedhead is 6-11cm long with 1-7 (usually  3) erect or spreading branches that normally bear spikelets to their base
  • Spikelets on stalks 4-8mm long and covered  in silky, brown or purple hairs making the spikelets appear like pieces of  cotton wool
  • Flowers mostly in summer and early autumn


  • Widespread in a variety of habits
  • Common on lighter soils and in lightly  grazed pastures
  • Highly drought tolerant and low to moderate  frost tolerance


  • Moderate to high  grazing value
  • Digestibility  ranges from 40-70%
  • Crude protein 4-14%


  • Desirable summer grass that is readily  eaten by stock and of moderate to high quality when young
  • Moderately productive, growing rapidly  after summer rain
  • Plant populations diminish over dry seasons  and re-establish in wet seasons, but it needs heavy extended summer rain to establish from  seed
  • Most common in areas not frequently grazed,  but otherwise only found as scattered plants
  • Conservatively stock or provide rests  periods to maintain populations.  Resting  pastures following heavy summer rains will aid establishment and promote seed  set


  • Needs close inspection of seedheads to  distinguish between other species of Digitaria
  • The base of the seedhead branches are bare  for 5-10cm in finger panic grass (D.  coenicola)
  • Spreading umbrella grass (D. divaricatissima) has long,  stiffly-spreading branches and the spikelets are only moderately hairy
Cotton panic grass

(Flowering plant: I Toole)