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Eragrostis aethiopica Chiov.

Rob.-Brich., Somalia & Benadir: 726 (1899).
Poaceae (Gramineae)
Chromosome number
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, 3–20 cm ื 1–3 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, 1.5–7 mm ื 0.5–1 mm, 4–9(–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.
Major references
• Clayton, W.D., Phillips, S.M. & Renvoize, S.A., 1974. Gramineae (part 2). In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 273 pp.
• Cope, T., 1999. Gramineae (Arundineae, Eragrostideae, Leptureae and Cynodonteae). In: Pope, G.V. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 10, part 2. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 261 pp.
• Gibbs Russell, G.E., Watson, L., Koekemoer, M., Smook, L., Barker, N.P., Anderson, H.M. & Dallwitz, M.J., 1990. Grasses of Southern Africa: an identification manual with keys, descriptions, distributions, classification and automated identification and information retrieval from computerized data. Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa No 58. National Botanic Gardens / Botanical Research Institute, Pretoria, South Africa. 437 pp.
• Phillips, S., 1995. Poaceae (Gramineae). In: Hedberg, I. & Edwards, S. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Volume 7. Poaceae (Gramineae). The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. 420 pp.
• Zemede Asfaw & Mesfin Tadesse, 2001. Prospects for sustainable use and development of wild food plants in Ethiopia. Economic Botany 55(1): 47–62.
Other references
• Cope, T.A., 1995. Poaceae (Gramineae). In: Thulin, M. (Editor). Flora of Somalia. Volume 4. Angiospermae (Hydrocharitaceae-Pandanaceae). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 148–270.
• Fr๖man, B. & Persson, S., 1974. An illustrated guide to the grasses of Ethiopia. CADU (Chilalo Agricultural Development Unit), Asella, Ethiopia. 504 pp.
• Holm, L., Pancho, J.V. & Herberger, J.P., 1979. A geographical atlas of world weeds. John Wiley & Sons, New York, United States. 391 pp.
• IPGRI, undated. Directory of Germplasm Collections. [Internet] Accessed April 2004.
• Morgan, W.T.W., 1981. Ethnobotany of the Turkana: use of plants by a pastoral people and their livestock in Kenya. Economic Botany 35(1): 96–130.
• SEPASAL, 2003. Eragrostis aethiopica. [Internet] Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (SEPASAL) database. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. Accessed September 2003.
• USDA, ARS & National Genetic Resources Program, 2001. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN). [Internet] National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland, United States. Accessed August 2003.
• M. Brink
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

• M. Brink
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
• G. Belay
Ethiopian Agricultural Research Organization, Debre Zeit Center, P.O. Box 32, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia
Associate editors
• J.M.J. de Wet
Department of Crop Sciences, Urbana-Champaign, Turner Hall, 1102 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801, United States
• O.T. Edje
Faculty of Agriculture, University of Swaziland, P.O. Luyengo, Luyengo, Swaziland
• E. Westphal
Ritzema Bosweg 13, 6706 BB Wageningen, Netherlands
General editors
• R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
• L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Photo editor
• A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

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.