Urochloa maxima (Jacq.) R.D.Webster
Megathyrsus maximus (Jacq.) B.K.Simon & S.W.L.Jacobs
Panicum polygamum Sw.
Panicum laeve Lam.
Panicum jumentorum Pers.
Panicum scaberrimum Lag.
Panicum compressum Biv.
Panicum heynei Roth
Panicum poiforme Willd. ex Spreng.
Panicum sparsum Schumach.
Panicum airoides Flüggé ex Nees
Panicum teff Desv.
Panicum eburneum Trin.
Panicum confine Hochst. ex A.Rich.
Milium arundinaceum J.Koenig ex Steud.
Panicum hirsutissimum Steud.
Panicum pamplemoussense Steud.
Panicum praelongum Steud.
Panicum trichocondylum Steud.
Panicum praticola Salzm. ex Döll
Panicum trichoglume K.Schum.
Panicum tephrosanthum Hack.
Panicum giganteum Mez
Panicum bivonianum Brullo
Megathyrsus bivonanus (Brullo, Miniss., Scelsi & Spamp.) Verloove
Flowering plant with flowering stem in the foreground
Photograph by: Reinaldo Aguilar
Panicum maximum is a densely clump-forming, perennial grass with erect or ascending culms. The plant often has shortly-creeping rhizomes at the base and can also produce new roots at the lower nodes of the culms. Widely cultivated, there are low/medium height forms from 100 - 150cm tall and also tall forms that can reach 250 - 300cm or more[
]. The plant tillers profusely, producing tufts or clumps up to 30 cm or more wide[
This species is one of the most important cultivated range and fodder grasses of lowland tropical America and can also be grown to produce biomass for making alcohol[
]. It is also used locally as a source of materials and for a few minor medicinal uses.
In South Africa, it is suspected to cause a sheep disease ("dikoor"), perhaps in conjunction with a smut. The plant is said to cause fatal colic if eaten too wet or in excess. Traces of HCN occur in stems and leaves, more in the roots[
Tropical and subtropical Africa from Senegal to Ethiopia and Somalia, south to S. Africa, the Arab Peninsula and islands in the west Indian Ocean
Grasslands, open woodlands and shady places[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
A plant of the subtropical to tropical zones, where it is found at elevations up to 2,500 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 19 - 30°c, but can tolerate 6 - 35°c[
]. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -2°c, but young growth can be severely damaged at 0°c[
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 - 1,800mm, but tolerates 650 - 4,300mm[
Prefers a lightly shaded position, but succeeds in full sun and quite deep shade[
]. It grows especially well in shaded, damp areas under trees and shrubs[
]. Grows best in a fertile, humus-rich loam, but tolerates most soil types and also low fertility[
]. Prefers a well-drained soil, but tolerant of seasonal inundation[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 7, tolerating 3.5 - 8.4[
The plant is a very effective coloniser in ungrazed areas, particularly where some form of soil disturbance has occurred[
]. It is well adapted to sloping, cleared land in rain forest areas. It can be an aggressive invader of annual and perennial crops in Brazil[
]. The plant may become a persistent weed, especially in cultivated areas such as sugarcane fields. It should be controlled in the seedling stage, as it is very difficult to remove later when the grass has reached maturity[
Yields of dry matter may be 6 - 60 tonnes per hectare[
Although plants seed readily, heads ripen very unevenly and shatter readily. Hence seed must be hand-collected. Viability of the fresh seed is comparatively low - it is increased by storing the seeds dry for 6 - 18 months[
Seed viability under natural conditions is short-lived. The plants should be allowed to reseed themselves at periodic intervals to insure stand maintenance[
Seed - cooked. Small and very fiddly to collect any quantity, it is generally only used in times of food shortage[
The plant is said to be diuretic, laxative and preventitive[
]. It is used in the treatment of heartburn and tympanitis[
Sap from the crushed fresh plant is used as a cicatrisant on wounds and sores[
The grass is tied around the head in order to bring relief from a headache[
The plant has been suggested as a biofuel for producing alcohol[
The straw is useful for thatching[
The culms serve as brooms[
The culms are used for basket weaving[
Seed - there is an initial dormancy when first harvested, which can last for up to 18 months. This can be overcome by the removal of glumes from the fresh seed[
]. The seed is usually sown in situ - only cover it lightly and then roll the ground[
Stems of guinea grass root freely from nodes when in contact with moist soil but, as a result of its erect growth habit, such rooted creeping stolons are rarely seen in the field[
Crops may also be established by propagating by sprigs, or by dividing the stools[
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