Sorghum halepense


Family: Poaceae

Weed class: A
Year Listed: 1988
Native to: Northern Africa and Asia
Is this Weed Toxic?:


Legal listings:

This plant is also on the Washington State quarantine list. It is prohibited to transport, buy, sell, offer for sale, or distribute plants or plant parts of quarantined species into or within the state of Washington or to sell, offer for sale, or distribute seed packets of seed, flower seed blends, or wildflower mixes of quarantined species into or within the state of Washington. Please see WAC 16-752 for more information on the quarantine list. For questions about the quarantine list, contact the Washington State Department of Agriculture's Plant Services Program at (360) 902-1874 or email

Why Is It a Noxious Weed?

It is considered a weed in all annual agricultural crops, orchards, vineyards, ditches, roadsides and fence rows. When it is under stress, it produces hydrocyanic acid which is toxic to grazing livestock.

How would I identify it?

General Description

Johnsongrass is a tall, upright, perennial grass, reaching 3 to 10 feet tall in height with an extensive system of rhizomes.

Flower Description

Flowers clusters (spikelets) in a branching pyramidal cluster (panicle) up to 16 inches. Spikelets grow in pairs at the lower end of this flowering stalk while spikelets are in threes at the upper end. Male and female spikelets appear on the same plant.

Leaf description

The leaves are alternate, from 12 to 30 inches long and ½ to 1 inch wide.  It has a noticeable white mid-vein.

Stem description

Stems terminate in a reddish inflorescence.

Where does it grow?

Johnsongrass is adapted to a variety of soil types, including fertile moist locations such as riparian areas, and also disturbed areas such as old fields and roadsides. Please click here to see a county level distribution map of Johnsongrass in Washington.

How Does it Reproduce?

Johnsongrass reproduces by seeds and by rhizomes. Each rhizome segment, or node, can produce shoots and roots. Seeds remain dormant in the soil for several years.

How Do I Control It?

General Control Strategy

Since Johnsongrass reproduces by seed and rhizomes, if cultural or mechanical methods are used as control methods, care should be taken to prevent re-sprout of rhizomes. Herbicides will control the upper part of the plant, but dormant buds on the rhizome may still sprout.

Mechanical Control

Repeated tillage is effective. If tillage is not repeated, preferably monthly, rhizomes can re-sprout and infestation can spread.

Cultural Control

Cultural methods on established sites are only effective if rhizome development is controlled.

Herbicide Control

Please refer to the PNW Weed Management Handbook, or contact your county noxious weed coordinator.

For More Information

See our Written Findings for more information about Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense).

Report on Johnsongrass from the book "Weed Control in Natural Areas in the Western United States"

Additional Photos