Panicum sumatrense (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Panicum sumatrense Roth ex Roemer & Schultes

Family: Gramineae


  • Panicum miliare auct., non Lamk,
  • P. attenuatum Willd.,
  • P. psilopodium Trin.

Vernacular names

  • Sama, little millet, Indian millet (En)
  • Vietnam: kê sumatra.


P. sumatrense occurs wild and as a weed in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, China, the Philippines and Indonesia. In India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and Burma (Myanmar) it is also cultivated as a cereal and is particularly important in the Eastern Ghats of India.


The grain is cooked and eaten like rice, or ground to flour to make bread. The whole plant and the straw are also used as forage.


  • Erect to decumbent, annual grass, up to 2 m tall. Decumbent plants root at the lower nodes, stem strongly branched, producing up to 46 erect branched flowering culms; erect plants rarely root from the lower nodes, stem producing up to 26 flowering culms.
  • Leaf blade linear-lanceolate, up to 56 cm × 21 mm, glabrous to sparsely hirsute.
  • Inflorescence an open to compact panicle up to 50 cm long, with 14-52 branches; spikelet lanceolate, up to 2.5 mm long, glabrous.
  • Caryopsis shiny white to almost black, the grain tightly enclosed by the lemma and palea.

The complex species P. sumatrense is very variable, and wild and cultivated forms have been classified as subspecies (wild: subsp. psilopodium (Trin.) de Wet; cultivated: subsp. sumatrense [sensu de Wet]), but it is proposed here to classify the cultivated forms as cultivar group Sama. Both forms cross freely and form fully fertile hybrids. The cultivated forms have lost the ability of natural seed dispersal and are usually more robust than the wild ones. They are thought to have been domesticated from the wild form which is an agressive colonizer of cultivated fields.

Two cultivar subgroups have been distinguished: Nana (synonym: race Nana), comprising the most common cultivars with decumbent stems and erect open inflorescences, and Robusta (synonym: race Robusta), mainly restricted to the Eastern Ghats of India, comprising cultivars with erect stems and compact inflorescences becoming curved when mature.

In the Eastern Ghats, sama is cultivated between 300-1000 m altitude, where average annual rainfall is 950-1200 mm. The growth cycle varies from 2.5-5 months. It produces a crop even on very poor soils and is usually sown together with a major cereal. It is harvested manually with sickles, then threshed by trampling with cattle, and the grains are removed by pounding. Yield is 200-600 kg/ha, increasing to 900 kg/ha in a good season.

Selected sources

3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 19, 20, 27, 34, 35.


  • H.N. van der Hoek & P.C.M. Jansen