Prota 1: Cereals and pulses/Céréales et légumes secs
Fl. Afr. austr. ill.: 390 (1841).
n = 10
Tough lovegrass, South-African lovegrass (En). Eragrostis d’Afrique du Sud (Fr). Capim chorão, capim teff (Po).
Origin and geographic distribution
In tropical Africa Eragrostis plana occurs in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It is also found in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. It has been introduced and has naturalized elsewhere, e.g. in India and Brazil.
The grain of Eragrostis plana is eaten as a famine food. Eragrostis plana is considered a poor grazing grass, but is utilized late in the rainy season in more arid regions. In Lesotho it is woven into hats, baskets, necklaces and bangles, and made into ropes and plaited items used in funerals. In South Africa the root is used to treat menorrhagia and impotence.
Densely tufted perennial grass up to 1 m tall, without rhizomes or stolons; stem (culm) erect, unbranched. Leaves alternate, simple; leaf sheath glabrous, strongly compressed, keeled; ligule a line of hairs; blade linear, 10–80 cm × 1.5–5 mm, flat or folded, glabrous, sometimes with punctate glands along the midvein. Inflorescence a narrowly oblong to narrowly ovoid panicle 10–35 cm long, branches ascending or spreading; primary branches not in whorls, but sometimes loosely clustered, terminating in a fertile spikelet. Spikelet on a pedicel 1.5–2 mm long, linear to narrowly oblong, 6–13.5 mm × 0.5–2 mm, 9–13-flowered, with bisexual florets; glumes unequal, the lower 0.5–1 mm long, the upper 1–1.5 mm long, keeled; lemma 2–2.5 mm long, keeled, membranous with prominent lateral veins, olive green; palea with slender keel, persistent; stamens 3, anthers (1–)1.5–2 mm long; ovary superior, with 2 stigmas. Fruit an oblong to ellipsoid caryopsis (grain) c. 1 mm long.
Eragrostis is a large and taxonomically complex genus comprising more than 350 species mainly in tropical and subtropical regions.
Eragrostis plana flowers from September to May. It has the C4-cycle photosynthetic pathway.
Eragrostis plana occurs from 400–2000 m altitude in grassland on sandy soils and shallow laterite pans, in dry areas on wet soils around vleis and rivers. Its common occurrence in pastures is considered an indicator of overgrazing or too much burning.
Eragrostis plana is collected from the wild.
Genetic resources and breeding
The USDA-ARS Western Regional Plant Introduction Station, Pullman, Washington, United States, holds 3 accessions of Eragrostis plana, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom, 2 accessions. This species is common in disturbed areas and thus not liable to genetic erosion.
Eragrostis plana is eaten only in times of famine and is a poor grazing grass. Therefore it is unlikely that it will become of more than minor importance in the future.
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Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2006. Eragrostis plana Nees In: Brink, M. & Belay, G. (Editors). PROTA 1: Cereals and pulses/Céréales et légumes secs. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.