Prota 1: Cereals and pulses/C้r้ales et l้gumes secs
Rob.-Brich., Somalia & Benadir: 726 (1899).
2n = 20
Origin and geographic distribution
Eragrostis aethiopica is distributed from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti southwards to South Africa. It is also found in the southern part of the Arabian peninsula.
The grain of Eragrostis aethiopica is consumed in Ethiopia. In the Turkana area of Kenya the plant is eaten by cattle, goats, sheep and donkeys, but in Ethiopia it is considered of little importance for grazing.
Annual grass up to 75 cm tall, erect or ascending; stem (culm) slender, solitary or tufted, often with pitted glands below the nodes. Leaves alternate, simple; leaf sheath glabrous; ligule a line of hairs; blade linear, 320 cm ื 13 mm, flat or involute, glabrous. Inflorescence a loose, open, ellipsoid panicle up to 26 cm long, branches and pedicels slender and flexible, lowermost primary branches usually in whorls but sometimes solitary or paired. Spikelet linear to oblong, 1.57 mm ื 0.51 mm, 49(28)-flowered, with bisexual florets; glumes unequal, hyaline, the lower veinless and up to 0.5 mm long, the upper lanceolate, up to 1 mm long; lemma c. 1 mm long, thinly membranaceous, obtuse; palea with smooth keel; stamens 3, anthers c. 0.2 mm long; ovary superior, with 2 stigmas. Fruit a caryopsis (grain), ellipsoid, c. 0.5 mm long.
Eragrostis is a large and taxonomically complex genus comprising more than 350 species mainly in tropical and subtropical regions, of which 14 are said to be endemic to Ethiopia. The diploid Eragrostis aethiopica is very similar to the tetraploid Eragrostis pilosa (L.) P.Beauv., a forage species of which the grain is sometimes eaten by humans. The former can be distinguished from the latter by its more delicate habit, smaller spikelets with blunter lemmas, smaller grain, and absence of long silky hairs in the lower panicle axis. Furthermore, Eragrostis pilosa is never glandular. In southern Africa Eragrostis aethiopica flowers from January to May.
Eragrostis aethiopica is found up to 1600 m altitude in semi-desert and savanna areas on sand, silt or clay, e.g. in floodplain grassland, small vleis, pan edges and banks and beds of rivers, but also in disturbed habitats, such as roadsides and cultivated land. It is sometimes considered a weed, e.g. in Mozambique.
Eragrostis aethiopica is collected from the wild.
Genetic resources and breeding
The National Genebank of Kenya, Kikuyu, Kenya, and the USDA-ARS Western Regional Plant Introduction Station, Pullman, Washington, United States, each have 1 accession of Eragrostis aethiopica. This species is widespread and in many areas common and thus not liable to genetic erosion.
The role of Eragrostis aethiopica will not extend beyond being a local source of food and forage.
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Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2006. Eragrostis aethiopica Chiov. In: Brink, M. & Belay, G. (Editors). PROTA 1: Cereals and pulses/C้r้ales et l้gumes secs. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.