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Sporobolus fimbriatus (Trin.) Nees

Fl. Afr. austral. ill.: 156 (1841).
Poaceae (Gramineae)
Chromosome number
2n = 18, 36, 54
Vernacular names
Dropseed, perennial dropseed grass, fringed dropseed (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Sporobolus fimbriatus is found wild and occasionally cultivated from Sudan and Somalia southwards to South Africa. It has been introduced elsewhere, e.g. into the United States.
In southern Africa the grains of Sporobolus fimbriatus are eaten during times of food shortage; they may be ground to prepare a porridge. Sporobolus fimbriatus is a good pasture grass and is browsed by stock, e.g. sheep and cattle. It has been planted for soil stabilization.
In South Africa the crude protein content of Sporobolus fimbriatus ranges from 14% in spring to 10% in autumn, and the digestibility from 70% in spring to 63% in autumn. The plant may contain hydrocyanic acid, but poisoning is seldom a problem.
Perennial, tufted grass up to 1.7 m tall, with a short rhizome; stem (culm) 2–3 mm in diameter at the base, erect, usually unbranched. Leaves mostly basal, simple; basal leaf sheath papery, glabrous or hairy along the margins, terete to strongly compressed and keeled, persistent; ligule ciliate; leaf blade linear, 10–30(–60) cm × 2–7.5(–14) mm, tapering to a filiform apex, flat, folded or involute, the white midrib prominent above, rough on the surfaces. Inflorescence a panicle 15–65 cm long, linear to lanceolate, the branches not in whorls, 2–12 cm long, smooth or somewhat rough, with the spikelets on the secondary or short tertiary branchlets. Spikelet 1.5–2.5 mm long, dark green, 1-flowered; lower glume narrowly oblong to lanceolate, 0.5–1.5 mm long, veinless, upper glume narrowly ovate, 1.5–2 mm long, 1-veined; lemma narrowly ovate, as long as the spikelet or almost so, 1-veined; palea similar to lemma, but 2-veined; stamens 3, c. 1 mm long; ovary superior, with 2 plumose stigmas. Fruit a caryopsis (grain), obovoid, c. 0.5 mm long, truncate, tetragonal in section.
Sporobolus comprises about 160 species and occurs in the tropics and subtropics, extending into warm temperate regions. It may resemble Eragrostis, which differs in its 2–many-flowered spikelets (1-flowered in Sporobolus) and 3-veined lemma (1-veined in Sporobolus). The species of Sporobolus are often difficult to identify because they intergrade to such an extent that their limits are often not sharply defined. This is also the case for the variable Sporobolus fimbriatus. Sporobolus fimbriatus follows the C4-cycle photosynthetic pathway.
Sporobolus fimbriatus is commonly found up to 2000 m altitude in open woodland and grassland, often in shallow rainwater pans, sometimes on rocky hillsides, also in disturbed or shady locations.
The grain of Sporobolus fimbriatus is mostly collected from the wild. In experiments in South Africa ungrazed planted pasture of Sporobolus fimbriatus produced 3.3 t dry matter per ha per year, and grazed pasture 2.7 t dry matter per ha per year.
Genetic resources and breeding
A collection of 47 accessions of Sporobolus fimbriatus (46 from South Africa and 1 from Botswana) is held in the United States (USDA-ARS Western Regional Plant Introduction Station, Pullman, Washington). In Africa germplasm collections are held in Kenya (National Genebank of Kenya, Crop Plant Genetic Resources Centre, KARI, Kikuyu, 21 accessions), South Africa (Grassland Research Centre, Department of Agricultural Development, Pretoria, 4 accessions) and Ethiopia (International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Addis Ababa, 1 accession). In view of its wide distribution and common occurrence Sporobolus fimbriatus is not threatened by genetic erosion.
The present role of Sporobolus fimbriatus seems limited to being a local source of food during times of shortage and of fodder. It is unlikely to increase in importance in the future.
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.
• 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.
• 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.
Other references
• Ben-Shahar, R., 1991. Selectivity in large generalist herbivores: feeding patterns of African ungulates in a semi-arid habitat. African Journal of Ecology 29(4): 302–315.
• du Pisani, L.G. & Knight, I.W., 1988. Preliminary evaluation of Sporobolus fimbriatus as planted pasture in the central Orange Free State (South Africa). Journal of the Grassland Society of Southern Africa 5(3): 125–129.
• Hanelt, P. & Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (Editors), 2001. Mansfeld’s encyclopedia of agricultural and horticultural crops (except ornamentals). 1st English edition. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Germany. 3645 pp.
• Klaassen, E.S. & Craven, P., 2003. Checklist of grasses in Namibia. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No 20. SABONET, Pretoria, South Africa. 130 pp.
• Myre, M., 1972. Algumas gramíneas novas ou pouco conhecidas para a província de Moçambique. Boletim da Sociedade Broteriana 46: 345–353.
• Sánchez-Monge y Parellada, E., 1981. Diccionario de plantas agrícolas. Ministerio de Agricultura, Madrid, Spain. 467 pp.
• Sharma, M.L. & Sharma, K., 1979. Cytological studies in the north Indian grasses. Cytologia 44(4): 861–872.
• van der Westhuizen, H.C., Snyman, H.A., van Rensburg, W.L.J. & Potgieter, J.H.J., 2001. The quantification of grazing capacity from grazing- and production values for forage species in semi arid grasslands of southern Africa. African Journal of Range & Forage Science 18(1): 43–52.
• 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.
• Watt, J.M. & Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G., 1962. The medicinal and poisonous plants of southern and eastern Africa. 2nd Edition. E. and S. Livingstone, London, United Kingdom. 1457 pp.
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. Sporobolus fimbriatus (Trin.) Nees In: Brink, M. & Belay, G. (Editors). PROTA 1: Cereals and pulses/Céréales et légumes secs. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.