Eragrostis cilianensis (All.) Lutati

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Graminae

Synonyms

E. major (L.) Host.

Common names

Stink grass (Australia), grey love grass (Kenya), black grass (New South Wales).

Description

Erect annual up to 90 cm high with geniculate or erect culms. Inflorescence a fairly open panicle. The leaf margins, nerves, panicle branches and lemmas are nearly always dotted with small, dark glands, some of which are raised, some depressed. Grains are almost spherical (Chippendall & Crook, 1976).

Distribution

Native to the Mediterranean region, now widely distributed throughout the tropics, mainly as a weed. It is a natural dominant in the annual grasslands of northern Kenya (Bogdan & Pratt, 1967).

Season of growth

Summer.

Altitude range

Sea-level to 2 250 m in Kenya.

Rainfall requirements

It occurs in rainfall regions down to 250 mm annually in Kenya but is more common in the 600-700 mm region in Australia.

Drought tolerance

As a free-seeding annual it escapes drought in a moderately dry year.

Number of seeds per kg.

4.4 million.

Vigour of growth and growth rhythm

It grows quickly and lasts only about three months.

Palatability

It is not very palatable but is eaten when young by cattle, horses and sheep. It has a disagreeable odour when fresh. The culms have a ring of glands below the nodes.

Chemical analysis and digestibility

Even rather stemmy herbage can contain 15 percent crude protein in the dry matter (Bogdan & Pratt, 1967). Dougall and Bogdan (1960) recorded 15.3 percent crude protein, 29 percent crude fibre, 10.6 percent ash, 2.4 percent ether extract and 42.7 percent nitrogen free extract from fresh material in late bloom in Kenya on a dry-matter basis.

Natural habitat

Widespread as a weed, especially on poor soils.

Genetics and reproduction

2n=20, 40 (Fedorov, 1974).

Seed production and harvesting

It is an efficient seeder, though the seed is tedious to collect in large quantities (Bogdan & Pratt, 1967).

Economics

Usually this aromatic grass is regarded as a weed and unpalatable to stock, but it gives early feed. In Lesotho the grains are used in time of famine for human food (Smith, 1966). The seed is in the form of small, naked caryopses. One of the pioneer species to appear on denuded land in semi-arid areas. Bogdan and Pratt (1967) recommended it for seeding the annual grass zone in rangeland, particularly alluvial soils in Kenya. There are, however, more palatable grasses, for example Dactyloctenium spp. As E. cilianensis is a worldwide weed, it is best omitted from seeding programmes.