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Named after a state in Brazil, Bahia grass is a type of grass native to South America that is often used for lawn and pasture grasses, particularly in the United States. A relatively low-maintenance, drought-tolerant grass, this grass grows on infertile and sandy soils. Bahia grass is ideal for arid areas, such as South America and the southern states in the US. There are four main types of Bahia grass: common, Pensacola, Argentine, and Paraguay.
A hardy, quick-growing grass, Bahia grass does not require much watering or fertilizing. It has an extensive root system, sometimes reaching as much as 8 feet (2.4 m) deep. This grass has tough stems and often grows in clumps. Bahia grass is also known for its tall seed heads, which appear most of the year if allowed to grow. It may be grown from sod or seeds.
Although Bahia grass is fairly healthy, it is susceptible to mole crickets and leaf yellowing. Leaf yellowing is generally cause by an iron deficiency, so iron fertilizer may be needed. Additionally, weeds are difficult to eliminate since Bahia grass does not generally tolerate chemical herbicides.
Bahia grass does well in hot, dry areas with a lot of sunlight. It does not thrive in shade, in acidic soils, or near salt water, nor can it survive in high traffic areas. Overwatering or over-fertilizing are also common reasons for this grass to fail when planted.
Neither the common or Paraguay varieties are suitable for lawns. The light green common grass is coarse with only a sparse growth. Also called Texas Bahia grass, the Paraguay variety has short, tough, grayish leaves and is one of the more susceptible to disease. Both varieties are intolerant to the cold.
Both Pensacola and Argentine Bahia grasses work well for lawns. The Pensacola is very cold and drought tolerant. The excessive number of seed heads it produces, however, makes it inferior to the Argentine grass for use on lawns. Also tolerant to cold, Argentine grass is dark green and creates a dense growth. It is also one of the most disease-resistant varieties.
In 1914, Bahia grass was first introduced to the US from Brazil as a good grass for cattle and horse pastures in the South and Southwest. It has since been adapted for use on lawns and on roadsides in southern states, such as Florida. Though Pensacola is the most common variety in Florida, it is more often used for roadside grasses.