Loudetia simplex (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Loudetia simplex (Nees) C.E.Hubb.

Protologue: Bull. Misc. Inform. Kew 1934: 431 (1934).
Family: Poaceae (Gramineae)
Chromosome number: 2n = 24, 40, 60


  • Tristachya simplex Nees (1841),
  • Arundinella stipoides Hack. (1884),
  • Loudetia camerunensis (Stapf) C.E.Hubb. (1934),
  • Loudetia stipoides (Hack.) Conert (1957).

Vernacular names

  • Common russet grass (En).

Origin and geographic distribution

Loudetia simplex is widely distributed throughout tropical Africa, including Madagascar. It also occurs in South Africa.


Loudetia simplex is commonly used for thatching. In Zambia it is reputed to be among the best thatching grasses available. In the Bamako market in Mali, baskets made of the stems are traded. In Madagascar Loudetia simplex is used for making baskets and hats. Young growth provides grazing. It is said to become unpalatable when mature and dry. In Burkina Faso the dislike is ascribed to a bitterness of the leaves. In many areas it has become a dominant grass indicative of poor soil or overgrazing. In Zimbabwe a maceration of the whole plant in water is used as a wash for treating athlete’s foot.

Production and international trade

Loudetia simplex is only used and traded locally.


Analysis of the fodder value of fresh plants in the early bloom stage in Kenya indicated (on a dry matter basis): 10.4% crude protein, 38.0% crude fibre, 5.6% ash, 1.8% ether extract and 44.2% N-free extract.


Perennial, tufted grass; stems 30–150 cm tall, usually erect, unbranched, nodes yellowish to black, glabrous to bearded. Leaves alternate; basal sheaths usually becoming fibrous, typically woolly tomentose but sometimes silky pubescent to glabrescent; ligule a ciliate fringe; blade linear, flat or rolled-in, rarely filiform, 10–30 cm × 2–5 mm. Inflorescence a linear to narrowly ovate panicle 5–30 cm long, contracted or loose, the branches seldom markedly whorled. Spikelets with 1 basal male floret and 1 upper bisexual floret, narrowly lanceolate, 8–14 mm long, pale to dark brown, mostly glabrous but sometimes bristly haired from dark tubercles, disarticulating below the upper floret and tardily so below the lower floret; glumes 3-veined; lower glume ovate-elliptical, usually one-third as long as the spikelet and broadly obtuse but sometimes half as long and narrowly obtuse; upper glume lanceolate, as long as the spikelet, obtuse; lower lemma similar to the upper glume, 3-veined; upper lemma oblong-elliptical, 4–7 mm long, thinly coriaceous, glabrescent to pilose, 7-veined, acutely bidentate with lobes up to 1 mm long; awn 2.5–5 cm long; callus narrowly oblong, 0.8–1 mm long, 2-toothed; palea-keels with thickened veins, wingless; stamens 2, 3 mm long; ovary with style c. 2 mm long and stigmas c. 2 mm long. Fruit a lanceolate caryopsis c. 5 mm long, glabrous, hilum linear.

In Benin Loudetia simplex flowers in June–January, in Zimbabwe in November–March. It sets seed and turns reddish-yellow when the annual cycle is completed, even if the soil has not dried out. After the rains, the whole tussock dries off and usually burns. After the fires there is a rather sparse regrowth of green leaves and some dry-season flowering. The main regrowth from the perennial tussock occurs after the onset of the next rains. Loudetia simplex uses the C4 photosynthetic pathway.

Loudetia is classified in the Arundinelleae and comprises about 20 or 26 species depending on the generic circumscription accepted. It is distributed in tropical and South Africa and in Madagascar, with 1 species in South America. Loudetia arundinacea (A.Rich.) Steud. is a perennial, robust, tufted grass with stems up to 3 m tall, occurring widespread from Senegal eastward to Cameroon and Ethiopia, and southward to Angola and Mozambique. It is a dominant grass in some savanna types and often forms pure stands. It is widely used for thatching, for instance in Sierra Leone and Nigeria, but its thatch is reported not to be durable. In Uganda the flowering stems are bundled to make brushes and brooms. The grass provides browse for cattle, especially while still young. In Kordofan (Sudan) it is said to recover rapidly after fire, and cattle will graze the new growth until it reaches about 40 cm in height. When older, the hairs on the mature inflorescence become troublesome to the eyes of cattle. Loudetia togoensis (Pilg.) C.E.Hubb. is an annual, tufted grass with stems up to 1 m tall. It is common across the Sahel from Mauritania to Sudan. The flowering stems are bundled into brooms in Ghana and Nigeria. In Burkina Faso the stems are plaited into hats, and in Togo into bracelets. The grass provides browse for stock, but only while still young.


Loudetia simplex occurs at 250–2500(–2750) m altitude in deciduous bushland and savanna grassland in areas with an average annual rainfall of (600–)750–1000 mm. It is not very tolerant of drought. Loudetia simplex grows on generally poor, coarse, sandy soils, but may also be found on stony slopes or on the edges of wetlands. In Ghana it is common on rocky hillsides and shallow soils overlying impermeable ironstone hardpan or bedrock. In Tanzania it is reported on infertile lateritic soils low in organic matter, derived from granite. The soil texture varies from sand to clay with a pH range of 5–7.5. In Côte d’Ivoire it is characteristic of Borassus aethiopum Mart. palm savanna. Burning of the savanna does not affect it or its proportion of the plant cover.


Loudetia simplex only occurs wild.

Genetic resources

Loudetia simplex is extremely widespread and common, and in no danger of genetic erosion.


Loudetia simplex is likely to remain a thatching and plaiting grass of local importance and a fodder grass of moderate importance in natural grassland.

Major references

  • Burkill, H.M., 1994. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 2, Families E–I. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 636 pp.
  • CIAT/FAO, undated. Grassland species profiles. [Internet]. CIAT/FAO collaboration on Tropical Forages, Rome, Italy. http://www.fao.org/ ag/AGP/AGPC/doc/gbase/ Default.htm. May 2011.
  • 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.
  • Dougall, H.W. & Bogdan, A.V., 1958. The chemical composition of grasses of Kenya. East African Agricultural and Forestry Journal 24(1): 17–23 (Part 1), 25(4): 241–244 (Part 2).
  • Poilecot, P., 1995. Les Poaceae de Côte d’Ivoire. Manuel illustré d’identification des espèces. Boissera 50: 1–734.

Other references

  • Chifundera, K., 2001. Contribution to the inventory of medicinal plants from the Bushi area, South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo. Fitoterapia 72: 351–368.
  • Clayton, W.D., 1971. Studies in the Gramineae 26. Numerical taxonomy of the Arundinelleae. Kew Bulletin 26(1): 111–123.
  • Conert, H.J., 1957. Beitraege zur Monographie der Arundinelleae. Botanische Jahrbücher für Systematik, Pflanzengeschichte und Pflanzengeographie 77: 226–354.
  • Jacques-Félix, H., 1972. Observations sur les Loudetia annuels du Tchad, du Cameroun et de République Centrafricaine. Adansonia 12(2): 231–243.
  • Lubke, R.A. & Phipps, J.B., 1973. Taximetrics of Loudetia (Gramineae) based on leaf anatomy. Canadian Journal of Botany 51: 2127–2146.
  • McVaugh, R., 1974. Report of the Committee for Spermatophyta: conservation of generic names 17. Proposal 315 (post 278) Loudetia Hochstetter ex Steudel (1854) vs. Loudetia A. Braun (1841). Taxon 23 (5–6): 819.
  • Medina, J.C., 1959. Plantas fibrosas da flora mundial. Instituto Agronômico Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil. 913 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.
  • Rommerskirchen, F., Plader, A., Eglinton, G., Chikaraishi, Y. & Rullkoetter, J., 2006. Chemotaxonomic significance of distribution and stable carbon isotopic composition of long-chain alkanes and alkan-1-ols in C4 grass waxes. Organic Geochemistry 37(10): 1303–1332.
  • Shava, S. & Mapaura, A., 2002. Traditional uses of indigenous grasses of Zimbabwe. Sabonet News 7(3): 193–197.

Sources of illustration

  • Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (Editors), 2006. Flore analytique du Bénin. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. 1034 pp.


  • L.P.A. Oyen, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Oyen, L.P.A., 2011. Loudetia simplex (Nees) C.E.Hubb. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <http://www.prota4u.org/search.asp>.

Accessed 6 March 2020.