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Eragrostis plana Nees

Fl. Afr. austr. ill.: 390 (1841).
Poaceae (Gramineae)
Chromosome number
n = 10
Vernacular names
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.
Major references
• 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.
• Jacot Guillarmod, A., 1971. Flora of Lesotho. Verlag J. Cramer, Lehre, Germany. 474 pp.
• van Oudtshoorn, F., 1999. Guide to grasses of Southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 288 pp.
• van Wyk, B.E. & Gericke, N., 2000. People’s plants: a guide to useful plants of southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 351 pp.
Other references
• Botha, C.E.J., 1992. Plasmodesmatal distribution, structure and frequency in relation to assimilation in C3 and C4 grasses in southern Africa. Planta 187: 348–358.
• IPGRI, undated. Directory of Germplasm Collections. [Internet] Accessed April 2004.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• O’Reagain, P.J. & Grau, E.A., 1995. Sequence of species selection by cattle and sheep on South African sourveld. Journal of Range Management 48(4): 314–321.
• Spies, J.J. & Jonker, A., 1987. Chromosome studies on African plants. 4. Bothalia 17(1): 135–136.
• Steenkamp, V., 2003. Traditional herbal remedies used by South African women for gynaecological complaints. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 86: 97–108.
• USDA, ARS & National Genetic Resources Program, 2001. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN). [Internet] National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland, United States. Accessed April 2004.
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 plana Nees In: Brink, M. & Belay, G. (Editors). PROTA 1: Cereals and pulses/Céréales et légumes secs. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.