Bermudagrass

Prepared by Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, and Debbie Shaughnessy, HGIC Horticulture Specialist, Clemson University. Revised by Trent C. Hale, Extension Turfgrass Specialist, Clemson University. (New 01/99. Revised 08/03.)

HGIC 1208

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Bermudagrasses (Cynodon species), also called wiregrass or devilgrass, are planted throughout South Carolina primarily on golf courses, athletic fields, tennis courts, bowling greens and high-quality lawns. They are primarily used in areas where fine-textured, high-quality turf is essential for sports activities and when maintenance budgets are adequate.

Bermudagrass is native to Africa where it thrives on fertile soils. Today, most of the bermudagrasses used for turf are hybrids of two different Cynodon species: C. dactylon and C. transvaalensis.

Bermudagrass produces a vigorous, light to dark green, dense turf that is well adapted to most soils and climatic regions in the southern United States. Bermudagrass has excellent wear, drought and salt tolerance and is a good choice for oceanfront property. It establishes rapidly and is competitive against weeds and, depending on the cultivar, is available as seed, sod or sprigs.

Bermudagrass has a large number of cultural and pest problems which restrict its use in many situations. It is not suitable for most home lawns because of the need for restricted-use pesticides to control nematodes and insects. It also requires the most maintenance for an acceptable appearance of any turfgrass.

In most areas of South Carolina, bermudagrasses become dormant (turn brown) in cold weather. Overseeding in fall with ryegrass is a common practice to maintain year-round green color. Bermudagrasses are susceptible to several nematode, insect, and disease problems. Bermudagrasses also have very poor shade tolerance and should not be grown underneath tree canopies or building overhangs. They spread very rapidly by both above- (stolons) and below- (rhizomes) ground runners that are very difficult to control within flowerbeds, walks and borders. Due to its rapid growth tendency, thatch buildup can become a problem in bermudagrass. A reel mower should also be used to produce the highest possible quality turf stand.

During periods of rapid growth, a minimum of twice weekly mowing may be necessary to prevent scalping.

Cultivars

There are several bermudagrass cultivars being used for turf (see Table 1). Currently, improved seeded bermudagrass cultivars are being aggressively developed. Most seed is available with the hull removed (hulled) or with the hull remaining (unhulled). Hulled seed germinates faster but costs more; unhulled seed lasts longer in unfavorable weather such as fall, winter or early spring, before germinating. Only some cultivars are commercially available from turf producers.

Common

This is the bermudagrass traditionally available for establishment by seed. However, it generally produces a looser netted turfgrass with a coarse texture, low shoot density and light green color and for these reasons is less desirable than other available cultivars. Common is often planted in seed mixes with bahiagrass or tall fescue for roadsides or reclamation sites.

Improved Common

The improved common type seeded varieties (e.g., Bradley, Burning Tree, Cheyenne, Jackpot, Mirage, Primavera, Princess, Pyramid, Sahara, Savannah, Sonesta, Sultan, Sundance, Sundevil I & II, SunStar, Sydney, Yuma and others) are darker green, deeper-rooted, medium-textured, and moderately denser compared to common bermudagrass. They are general-purpose, turf-type bermudagrasses used for golf course roughs and fairways, lawns, parks, roadsides and sports turf. Use them in areas where improved characteristics are desired, but where quality and level of maintenance are lower than the sterile hybrid varieties. Cold tolerance the first year after seeding also is a concern with seeded varieties. OKS91-11 is a seeded variety from Oklahoma State University noted for its cold tolerance. Most of today's bermudagrass seed is produced in western Arizona, the Imperial Valley of California and Oklahoma.

Quickstand (or Quicksand)

Quickstand is a selection from Kentucky released in 1993. It is a common bermudagrass that is extremely winter hardy and is an aggressive growing and spreading grass. It is not as fine-textured or as dense as hybrid bermudagrasses, but is a suitable alternative in areas that experience periodic winterkill.

FloraTex

This variety was jointly released in 1993 by the University of Florida and Texas A&M University. It is noted for its low maintenance inputs in terms of fertilizer and water, and extended fall color and earlier spring green-up. Its texture is medium and density moderate. It also appears to be much less susceptible to dollar spot disease and bermudagrass stunt mite. FloraTex must be vegetatively established and produces numerous seed heads in late spring. It should be used where desired turf quality is higher than common bermudagrass but the level of maintenance and quality are lower than the Tif varieties.

GN-1

GN-1 is a recent introduction by Greg Norman evaluated as CT-2. It is a hybrid bermudagrass with darker green color than Tifway bermudagrass and similar leaf density, but with a wider leaf texture. GN-1 is vegetatively established because seed is unavailable. It's aggressive lateral growth habit allows GN-1 to recover quickly from damage and also "stripes " better from mowing during summer than most other bermudagrass selections.

Midway, Midiron, Midlawn, Midfield

These cultivars were released by the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station predominantly for their cold tolerance. They are presumed hybrids between cold tolerant C. dactylon and C. transvaalensis. These medium-textured grasses produce few seed heads and are used for lawns, fairways and roughs where winterkill is a common problem.

Tiflawn

Tiflawn was released in 1952 and is noted for its medium dark green color; medium fine texture and shoot density; vigorous growth rate and establishment; and moderately low growing height. Tiflawn has excellent drought and wear tolerance as well as exceptional recuperative potential. It is widely grown on sports fields, recreational areas and lawns; however, it is susceptible to bermudagrass mites.

TifSport

This 1997 bermudagrass release from the United States Department of Agriculture and the University of Georgia is an induced gamma-irradiated mutant from Midiron bermudagrass and is reported to have superior cold tolerance and desirable turf texture and density. This grass has a texture and color similar to Tifway and Tifway II and should be used in similar sites such as fairways and tees. It has shown good winter hardiness in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. It produces no seed, therefore, must be vegetatively propagated.

Tifway

Tifway is a dark green bermudagrass with medium texture and high shoot density. Tifway has better tolerance to pest problems than Tifgreen. Tifway is used in areas of moderate maintenance, such as fairways and sports fields and higher maintained lawns. Tifway is currently considered the best overall bermudagrass selection for high-quality lawns, sports fields and golf course fairways.

Tifway II

Tifway II is a mutant of Tifway that was released in 1984 for its improved frost and nematode tolerance. It has a similar appearance to Tifway with increased shoot density and seed heads. Tifway II can be used in moderate maintenance situations. Tifway and Tifway II make beautiful yards if adequate time, machine and labor resources are dedicated to their establishment and upkeep.

Excerpted from Southern Lawns: Best Management Practices for the Selection, Establishment and Maintenance of Southern Lawngrasses, EC 707, 2003

Table 1. Characteristics of Popular Improved Bermudagrass Varieties (From Southern Lawn).
Variety Seeded Texture Green Color Uses
Baby no medium fine medium dark golf fairways/tees/lawns
Blackjack yes medium medium dark fairways/tees/lawns
Bradley yes medium medium dark fairways/tees/lawns
Burning Tree yes medium medium dark fairways/tees/lawns
Celebration no medium medium fairways/roughs/lawns
Cheyenne yes medium course light golf roughs/lawns
Common yes coarse light roughs/lawns/roadsides
Continental yes coarse light roughs/lawns
DelSol yes medium medium dark fairways/tees/lawns
FloraTeX no medium medium fairways/roughs/lawns
GN-1 no medium fine dark fairways/roughs/lawns
Guymon yes medium light fairways/roughs/lawns
Jackpot yes medium light fairways/roughs/lawns
Majestic yes medium medium dark fairways/roughs/lawns
Mercury yes medium medium dark fairways/roughs/lawns
Midfield no medium dark fairways/roughs/lawns
Midiron no medium dark fairways/lawns
Midlawn no medium dark fairways/roughs/lawns
Midway no medium dark fairways/roughs/lawns
Mirage yes medium light fairways/roughs/lawns
Mohawk yes medium medium fairways/roughs/lawns
NuMex Sahara yes medium course light roughs/lawns
OKS 91-11 yes medium medium dark fairways/roughs/lawns
Ormond no medium blue green fairways/roughs/lawns
Panama yes medium medium dark fairways/roughs/lawns
Paradise yes medium medium fairways/roughs/lawns
Primavera yes medium light fairways/roughs/lawns
Primo yes medium medium fairways/roughs/lawns
Princess yes medium light fairways/roughs/lawns
Pyramid yes medium light fairways/roughs/lawns
Quickstand no> medium medium roughs/lawns/roadsides
Santa Ana no >medium blue green fairways/roughs/lawns
Savannah yes medium medium dark fairways/roughs/lawns
Shanghai yes medium medium fairways/roughs/lawns
Shangri-La yes medium medium dark fairways/roughs/lawns
Soliel yes medium medium fairways/roughs/lawns
Sonesta yes medium light roughs/lawns
Southern Star yes medium medium fairways/roughs/lawns
SR 9554 yes medium dark fairways/roughs/lawns
Sultan yes medium medium fairways/roughs/lawns
Sundance yes medium medium fairways/roughs/lawns
Sundevil I & II yes medium light roughs/lawns
SunStar yes medium medium fairways/roughs/lawns
Sunturf no fine dark fairways/roughs/lawns
Sultan yes medium medium fairways/roughs/lawns
Sydney yes medium medium dark fairways/roughs/lawns
Texturf 10 no medium dark fairways/roughs/lawns
Tiflawn (57) no medium dark fairways/lawns
TifSport (Tift-94) no mediu dark fairways/tees/lawns
Tifton 10 no coarse blue green roughs/lawns
Tifway (419) no fine dark fairways/tees/lawns
Tifway II no fine dark fairways/lawns
U3 yes medium coarse light fairways/roughs/lawns
Windsor Green no medium fine dark fairways/roughs/lawns
Yukon yes medium medium fairways/roughs/lawns
Yuma yes medium light fairways/roughs/lawns

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