Sporobolus panicoides (PROTA)
|Geographic coverage Africa|
|Geographic coverage World|
|Cereal / pulse|
|Forage / feed|
Sporobolus panicoides A.Rich.
- Protologue: Tent. fl. abyss. 2: 399 (1850).
- Family: Poaceae (Gramineae)
- Famine grass (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Sporobolus panicoides is found in East and southern Africa from Sudan and Ethiopia southwards to South Africa, and in tropical Arabia.
The grains of Sporobolus panicoides are eaten during times of food shortage.
- Annual, slender grass up to 1 m tall; stem (culm) erect, solitary or tufted.
- Leaves simple; leaf sheath papery, glabrous, but hairy near the margins, slightly compressed; blade linear, 5–30 cm × 2–6 mm, attenuate at apex, flat or involute, pale green, glabrous or sparsely hairy above.
- Inflorescence a narrowly ellipsoid panicle 4–22 cm long, the branches in a succession of whorls, with 1–4 spikelets per branch.
- Spikelet 2–3.5 mm long, pallid with purple tinge above, 1-flowered; lower glume 1–1.5 mm long, rarely minute, narrowly ovate to lanceolate, obtuse to acute at apex, veinless, glabrous, upper glume as long as the spikelet, elliptical-oblong to ovate, acute at apex, 1-veined, glabrous; lemma a little shorter than spikelet, elliptical-ovate, 1-veined; palea 2-veined; stamens 3, 1–1.5 mm long; ovary superior, with 2 plumose stigmas.
- Fruit a caryopsis (grain), 1–2 mm in diameter, oblong-globose, bright brown or orange.
Other botanical information
Sporobolus comprises about 160 species and occurs in the tropics and subtropics, extending into warm temperate regions. It resembles 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. However, Sporobolus panicoides is easily recognized by its comparatively large, brightly coloured grain, the sparsity of spikelets on the panicle branches and the partially or complete sterile lowermost panicle branch whorl.
Sporobolus panicoides is locally common in sunny or lightly shaded locations, up to 2100 m altitude, in woodland on sandy soils, in granite sandveld and on rocky hillsides, often at roadsides or in other disturbed localities.
The grains of Sporobolus panicoides are only collected from the wild.
One accession of Sporobolus panicoides is kept at the National Genebank of Kenya, Crop Plant Genetic Resources Centre, KARI, Kikuyu. Sporobolus panicoides is not threatened by genetic erosion as it is widespread and locally common.
The present role of Sporobolus panicoides is very limited, being a local source of food during times of shortage. It is not probable that it will become more important in the future.
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- M. Brink, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Correct citation of this article
Brink, M., 2006. Sporobolus panicoides A.Rich. In: Brink, M. & Belay, G. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 2 December 2022.
- See the Prota4U database.