What are Stolons and Rhizomes?

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Understanding the definition of how a stolon differs from a rhizome is crucial when learning how creeping grasses propagate, spread, and recover from wear damage. This knowledge might also aid in deciding what kind of grass to select for an upcoming lawn project and how to manage it best.

Stolons

A stolon is an above-the-ground stem that creeps along the soil’s surface and subsequently grows a clone of the original plant on the end of it. The clone plant then sends down roots and establishes itself as an independent plant before repeating the process. A grass that has the characteristic of producing many stolons is described as stoloniferous grass.

Examples of warm-season grasses with stolons include centipede grass, St. Augustine grass, zoysia grass, and bermuda grass.

Rhizomes

Rhizomes, also called “creeping root stalks” or just “root stalks,” are modified stems that run underground horizontally, often just underneath the surface of the soil. Rhizomes strike new roots down into the soil and also shoot stems upwards. A grass that has the characteristic of producing many rhizomes is described as rhizomatous grass. Examples of warm-season grasses with rhizomes include bermuda grass and zoysia grass.
Warm-season grasses propagate themselves vegetatively via means of stolons and/or rhizomes.

Grasses that spread laterally via rhizomes or stolons are often characterized as “invasive species” because they can spread into surrounding areas of a landscape where they may not be wanted. Understanding which grasses have stolons and rhizomes is important for management purposes.

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