Tripsacum dactyloides (Eastern gamagrass, TRIDA, Gama grass) | BCH-ORGA-SCBD-263031 | Organism | Biosafety Clearing-House


Organism (ORGA)

last updated: 01 Feb 2023
Organism information
Tripsacum dactyloides
Kingdom Viridiplantae
Phylum Streptophyta
Class Magnoliopsida
Order Poales
Family Poaceae
Subfamily Panicoideae
Genus Tripsacum
Species Tripsacum dactyloides
  • Coix dactyloides
  • Eastern gamagrass
  • Gama grass
Characteristics related to biosafety
Tripsacum dactyloides is native to the United States, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean region.
Eastern gamagrass  can be found can be found growing in prairies, coastal plains, semi-arid regions, deep sandy soils, rocky outcrops, river and stream banks, clearings in forested areas, wet grasslands, and around the edges of marshes. It grows best in areas with a mean annual temperatures between 12°C and 24°C, with a mean annual rainfall ranging from 900 to 1500 mm and at elevations from sea level to 2750 m. However, the grass can tolerate annual rainfall of 600 mm. The species prefers moist, moderately well-drained, fertile soils, with textures ranging from sand to clay and pH from 5.5-7.5. It is also adapted to poorly drained soils, but has low salt tolerance. Stands are reduced but not killed by 3 weeks of flooding. The species forms a dense root system extending to 4.5 m depth, facilitating moderate drought tolerance. Plants may survive temperatures as low as -30°C, but require at least 140 frost-free days per year for long-term persistence. It photosynthesizes most efficiently during the hottest part of the summer. The grass grows best in full sun, but tolerates light shade.
 It was introduced through cultivation as a forage crop and is now naturalized in tropical Asia, India, Malaysia, Philippines and Australia. The species is only listed as invasive in Cuba.
  • Feed
  • Ornamental
Additional Information
Eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides) is a long-lived, perennial C4 grass. It is cultivated as a hay and silage crop, for soil conservation and for erosion control. It is also planted as a soil conditioner in drained swamps, for use in mulching and as an ornamental plant. 

The chromosome number reported varies greatly from diploid (2n = 2x = 36), to triploid (2n = 3x = 54), tetraploid (2n = 4x = 72), pentaploid (2n = 5x = 90), and hexaploid (2n = 6x = 108). It has separate male and female flowers (monoecious), but each spike contains both male and female flowers. Only the diploid plants are sexual and cross-pollinated. The tetraploids and the rest of the polyploids are apomictic and produce seeds asexually. Crossing between the sexual diploids and the polyploids can occur. The grass is spread by seeds.

The grass is a wild genetic relative of cultivated maize Zea mays, and it has been suggested that Zea mays may be the result of a cross between T. dactyloides and Zea diploperennis, a perennial variety of teosinte. Like other Tripsacum species, T. dactyloides can hybridize with domesticated maize and teosinte species, although offspring of direct crosses are typically sterile.

It is possible to cook the seeds and grind them into flour.