The yields of eight grass species, Axonopus compressus, Brachiaria decumbens, B. humidicola, B. miliiformis, Dicanthium caricosum, Ischaemum aristatum, Paspalum conjugatum and Stenotaphrum secundatum, were compared at five sites under different coconut densities giving variations in shade. Light transmission (LT) values were approximimately 100 (adjacent open area), 70, 50, 40 and 20% of full sunlight. Soils were fertile, red-brown clays developed on uplifted coral limestone (typic arguidoll), with marginal K status. Brachiaria spp. yielded most in full sunlight, with B. decumbens giving 28 t ha−1 year−1. I. aristatum was less sensitive to shade than the Brachiaria spp., at least down to 40% LT. S. secundatum, although poor yielding at 100 and 70% LT, gave the best yield of all species at 20% LT. Shaded plants had thinner leaves and larger nitrogen concentrations than unshaded ones. B. decumbens and B. humidicola are recommended for open plantations (LT > 70%), I. aristatum for moderate shade (LT 45–70%) and S. secundatum for deeper shade (30–50%) on poor fertility soils.