Echinochloa lelievrei (A.Chev.) Berhaut
Echinochloa oryzetorum (A.Chev.) A.Chev.
Echinochloa scabra (Lam.) Roem. & Schult.
Panicum burgu A.Chev.
Panicum galli Thunb.
Panicum lelievrei A.Chev.
Panicum oryzetorum (A.Chev.) A.Chev.
Panicum scabrum Lam.
Panicum stagninum Retz.
Common Name: Hippo Grass
Hippo grass is a robust perennial grass with elongated rhizomes and decumbent or prostrate culms that are 30 - 200cm long, rooting from their lower nodes. The rhizomes are stout and often floating, bearing culms up to 2 metres high (though occasionally annual and weaker)[
The plant is claimed to be the most useful of all wild plants in the Timbuktu area of Mali, providing as well as food and drink, material for thatch; caulking for boats; and a vegetable salt which can be heated until it turns to a powder and then used in making soap and indigo dyes[
]. The plant is sometimes cultivated, especially in India and the Niger area, as a low-yielding cereal[
]. It is also sometimes grown in the Niger area for the sweet culms that are used to produce a sugary syrup and fermented beverages and for thatching[
Tropical Africa - savannah areas from Mauritania to Somalia, south to S. Africa; E. Asia - Pakistan, India to Indonesia.
Swamps and standing water, often forming floating mats[
]. The grass is locally abundant, colonising marshes, and open standing water to form nearly pure stands[
]. Found at elevations up to 2,300 metres[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Semi-cultivated, Wild
The plant invades rivers causing obstruction of the waterway. It is a major component of sudd in several African rivers. Its presence is indicative of fresh-water, rather than brackish. It is a weed of rice-fields in Madagascar and irrigation channels in The Gambia[
The plants are traditionally harvested using boats and by beating the inflorescences over a net. As the grains shatter easily, they are harvested at an early stage[
The culms are sweet with a sugary sap that is said to contain 10% sucrose and 7 - 8% reducing sugars[
]. Children suck the stems in order to obtain the juice[
]. The sap is used to make a drink which is concentrated by boiling to produce a brown sugar sold in local shops, and more especially used in Timbuktu to make pastries and a sort of caramel[
]. To obtain sugar, the harvested plants are traditionally dried in the sun, after which the leaves are burnt off. The stems are washed and ground, and sugar is extracted from them by filtrating with warm water[
The submerged rhizomes are particularly rich in sugar and the sweet sap is extracted to form an unfermented drink, but fermentation rapidly sets in resulting in a cider-like beverage, or if distilled to yield alcohol[
Seed - cooked. It can be ground into a powder and used as flour. It is mainly used in times of shortage[
]. The grass, in fact, closely resembles wild rice and, because it shatters too easily, the panicles are reaped early and dried on a suitable winnowing platform[
The plant can be burnt to produce a 'salt'[
The Niger River flood-plain is a recognised locust nursery area, the hoppers growing on the bare soil between tufts of grass exposed after the flood-waters have retreated. Very large areas, especially south of Lake Debo, are covered with pure stands of this species of grass which when the waters have receded is laid and provides excellent pasturage. Trampling, grazing and later firing to promote regrowth leave the soil bare on which locust eggs are laid. Other areas of lesser inundation have admixtures of other grasses which tend to be tufted and thus anyhow have bare ground between the tufts, 20 - 50% of the ground being bare. Oryza barthii, a wild rice, is one that harbours such hoppers. If all the land could be clothed with E. Stagnina and grazing and firing restricted so as not to expose the soil locust egg-laying might be inhibited[
The culms are used for thatching and for weaving into mats[
The salt obtained from burning the plant is used in making soap and as a mordant in indigo dyes[
Seed - when stored under water in the dark at a temperature of 20°c they showed no dormancy and had a germination percentage of almost 100%; whereas seeds kept under dry conditions had a dormancy period of 6 - 7 months[
]. The dormancy is broken by removing the glumes, but this results in rapidly reduced viability[
]. Seeds germinate within a week after sowing[
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