Open the Advanced Search

Smooth Finger-grass

Digitaria ischaemum

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Poaceae (Grass)
Also in this family:
Alpine Catstail, Alpine Foxtail, Alpine Meadow-grass, Annual Beard-grass, Annual Meadow-grass, Arrow Bamboo, Barren Brome Grass, Bearded Couch Grass, Bearded Fescue, Bermuda Grass, Black Bent, Black Grass, Blue Fescue, Blue Moor-grass, Bog Hair-grass, Borrer's Saltmarsh Grass, Bread Wheat, Bristle Bent, Brown Bent, Brown Sedge, Bulbous Foxtail, Bulbous Meadow-grass, California Brome Grass, Canary Grass, Carnation Sedge, Cocksfoot, Cockspur, Common Bent, Common Cord-grass, Common Millet, Common Reed, Common Saltmarsh Grass, Compact Brome Grass, Corn, Couch Grass, Creeping Bent, Creeping Soft-grass, Crested Dog's-tail, Crested Hair-grass, Cultivated Oat, Curved Hard Grass, Cut Grass, Dense Silky Bent, Downy Oat-grass, Drooping Brome Grass, Drooping Tor Grass, Dune Fescue, Early Hair-grass, Early Meadow-grass, Early Sand-grass, False Brome Grass, False Oat-grass, Fern Grass, Fine-leaved Sheep's Fescue, Flattened Meadow-grass, Floating Sweet-grass, Foxtail Barley, French Oat, Giant Fescue, Glaucous Meadow-grass, Great Brome Grass, Greater Quaking Grass, Grey Hair-grass, Hairy Brome Grass, Hairy Finger-grass, Hard Fescue, Hard Grass, Harestail Grass, Heath Grass, Holy Grass, Hybrid Marram Grass, Italian Rye Grass, Knotroot Bristlegrass, Lesser Hairy Brome Grass, Lesser Quaking Grass, Loose Silky Bent, Lyme Grass, Marram Grass, Marsh Foxtail, Mat Grass, Mat-grass Fescue, Meadow Barley, Meadow Fescue, Meadow Foxtail, Meadow Oat-grass, Mountain Melick, Narrow-leaved Meadow-grass, Narrow-leaved Small-reed, Neglected Couch Grass, Nit Grass, Orange Foxtail, Pampas Grass, Perennial Rye Grass, Plicate Sweet-grass, Purple Moor-grass, Purple Small-reed, Purple-stem Catstail, Quaking Grass, Ratstail Fescue, Red Fescue, Reed Canary Grass, Reed Sweet-grass, Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass, Rescue Grass, Rough Meadow-grass, Rush-leaved Fescue, Sand Catstail, Sand Couch Grass, Scandinavian Small-reed, Scottish Small-reed, Sea Barley, Sea Couch Grass, Sea Fern Grass, Sheep's Fescue, Silver Hair-grass, Six-rowed Barley, Slender Brome Grass, Small Cord-grass, Small Sweet-grass, Smaller Catstail, Smooth Brome Grass, Smooth Cord-grass, Smooth Meadow-grass, Soft Brome Grass, Somerset Hair-grass, Sorghum, Spreading Meadow-grass, Squirreltail Fescue, Stiff Brome Grass, Stiff Saltmarsh Grass, Sweet Vernal Grass, Tall Fescue, Timothy Grass, Tor Grass, Tufted Hair-grass, Two-rowed Barley, Upright Brome Grass, Velvet Bent, Viviparous Fescue, Wall Barley, Wavy Hair-grass, Wavy Meadow-grass, Whorl Grass, Wild Oat, Wood Barley, Wood Fescue, Wood Meadow-grass, Wood Melick, Wood Millet, Yellow Oat-grass, Yorkshire Fog
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
40 centimetres tall
Fields, wasteland.

Green, no petals
2 to 8 green spikes (later turning purple) which emerge from the erect stem. The spikes are about 8cm long.
The fruit of all grass species are known as caryopses.
The leaves are alternate, long and linear, as typical of all grass species. The sheaths are hairless.
Other Names:
Fingergrass, Ischaemum Fingergrass, Small Crabgrass, Smooth Crabgrass.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Digitaria ischaemum, also known as fingergrass or ischaemum fingergrass, is a species of grass in the family Poaceae. It is native to tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and Asia, and is also found in other parts of the world as an introduced species.

This species is often used as a forage grass for grazing animals, and is also used in turf and soil stabilization projects. It is a drought-tolerant and heat-tolerant species, which makes it well-suited for cultivation in arid and semi-arid regions.

One of the major disadvantages of D. ischaemum as a forage grass is that it is a low-yielding species, and its nutritional value is relatively low compared to other forage grasses. Its low digestibility and palatability can make it less attractive to grazing animals.

Another potential issue with D. ischaemum is that it is considered a weed in some areas, as it can spread rapidly and outcompete native vegetation. This is a important point to consider before to put in an area, particularly in the conservation area.

In terms of management, D. ischaemum can be controlled by mowing, grazing or chemical herbicide, but they are not an end-all solution. the best way to avoid the invasive weed problem is to grow this grass in a more controlled and monitored environment, such as in a pasture or turf area, and make sure to keep an eye out for any signs of spread.


Smooth finger-grass (Digitaria ischaemum) is a cool-season perennial grass that is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is a common grass found in open fields, pastures, and waste places. Smooth finger-grass is also known as small crabgrass or smooth crabgrass, and it belongs to the family Poaceae.

The plant has a slender stem, and its leaves are flat, smooth, and narrow. The inflorescence is composed of several spikes that are held in a cluster at the top of the stem. The spikes are green or purple and can grow up to 4 inches in length. The plant blooms from June to August.

Smooth finger-grass is a hardy plant that can tolerate a wide range of soil types and moisture conditions. It is commonly found in areas with low to medium fertility, such as roadsides, ditches, and disturbed areas. The plant is often considered a weed, and it can quickly spread and form dense mats that can smother other vegetation.

Despite its weedy nature, smooth finger-grass has some beneficial uses. It is used as forage for livestock, and it has some medicinal properties. The plant is known to have antidiarrheal and antipyretic properties, and it has been used in traditional medicine to treat fever, dysentery, and other ailments.

In terms of management, smooth finger-grass can be controlled through mechanical methods such as hand-pulling or mowing. Herbicides can also be used, but they should be used with caution as they can also harm desirable vegetation. It is important to manage smooth finger-grass before it becomes too established, as it can be difficult to control once it has formed dense mats.

Smooth finger-grass is an important food source for a variety of wildlife, including songbirds and game birds. The plant's seeds are small and nutritious, and they are an important part of the diet of many bird species. Additionally, smooth finger-grass provides cover and habitat for a variety of small animals.

In terms of its ecological impact, smooth finger-grass can be both beneficial and detrimental. The plant can help prevent soil erosion and can be used to stabilize disturbed areas. However, when it forms dense mats, it can outcompete and displace native vegetation, reducing biodiversity and altering ecosystem processes.

Smooth finger-grass is also a common invader of lawns and gardens. It can quickly establish and spread, forming unsightly mats and crowding out desirable vegetation. To prevent smooth finger-grass from invading lawns and gardens, it is important to maintain healthy soil and promote a diverse plant community. Good lawn care practices, such as proper watering, fertilization, and mowing, can also help prevent the establishment of smooth finger-grass and other weedy species.

Smooth finger-grass is a versatile and hardy plant that has both beneficial and detrimental impacts on the environment. While it is often considered a weed, it has some beneficial uses and can be an important part of many ecosystems. By managing smooth finger-grass carefully and preventing its spread into sensitive areas, we can ensure that its ecological impacts remain positive.

Smooth finger-grass has been used in various traditional medicines for centuries. In China, the plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including diarrhea, dysentery, fever, and inflammation. In other parts of the world, smooth finger-grass has been used to treat skin disorders, stomach problems, and other conditions. Research has shown that smooth finger-grass has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties, which may explain its medicinal benefits.

Smooth finger-grass is also used in some modern agricultural practices. The plant is often used as a cover crop, which helps to prevent soil erosion, improve soil fertility, and control weeds. As a cover crop, smooth finger-grass can be grown alone or in combination with other species, such as legumes or grasses. In addition to its benefits as a cover crop, smooth finger-grass is also used as forage for livestock, particularly in Europe.

In terms of its taxonomy, smooth finger-grass is part of the genus Digitaria, which includes around 300 species of grasses. Some other species in this genus are also considered weeds, while others are cultivated for forage or as ornamental plants. Digitaria ischaemum is closely related to other crabgrass species, such as large crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis) and hairy crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis).

In summary, smooth finger-grass is a versatile plant that has been used for a variety of purposes throughout history. While it is often considered a weed, it has some beneficial properties, including its medicinal benefits and its use as a cover crop and forage. With careful management, smooth finger-grass can be a valuable part of many different ecosystems and agricultural systems.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map