Dactyloctenium giganteum is a robust, clump-forming annual grass. The culms are up to 160cm tall (and rarely less than 70cm), erect or geniculately ascending, sometimes rooting from the lower nodes[
The edible seed is sometimes harvested from the wild (usually only in times of shortage) and consumed locally.
East tropical Africa - Kenya, Tanzania, Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, S. Africa.
Usually found in sandy soils, on Kalahari Sands, in sandy dambos and vleis, and in river-bank sandy alluvium, frequently a weed of irrigated land at low altitudes, and common on disturbed ground at roadsides and in old cultivated fields[
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A plant of the drier tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 2,000 metres[
]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 22 - 30°c, but can tolerate 2 - 42°c[
]. It can be killed by temperatures of -6°c or lower, though new growth can be damaged at -1°c[
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 450 - 500mm, but tolerates 400 - 700mm[
Requires a sunny position[
]. Favours light, sandy soils in the wild[
]. Requires a well-drained soil[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6.5, tolerating 5 - 7[
The plant can commence flowering within 30 - 45 days of germinating, and ripens its seed in 60 - 80 days[
Seed - cooked[
]. The seeds are lightly roasted in order to soften them, then pounded or ground into flour. The flour is used in making uji, or ugali, which is eaten with vegetables or meat during famine periods[
The plant is grown on denuded sandy soils to protect it from erosion, as well as to help restore fertility and structure[
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