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Eragrostis Wolf

Kingdom: Plantae Rank: Genus Parent: Poaceae Status: Valid

Common Names:

  • LOVE GRASS - English, United States of America

Morphological Description

Diagnosis: Annuals or perennials; leaf sheaths glabrous except at summit in most species; ligule usually a ring of hairs; spikelets in very open to contracted panicles, 2–many-flowered, sometimes with a reddish purple color, often somewhat laterally compressed; disarticulation various; glumes unequal; lemmas obtuse, acute, or acuminate, awnless, rounded or keeled on back, 3-veined, the lateral veins sometimes obscure, usually glabrous; stamens 2 or 3.


Notes: A genus of ca. 350 species (Peterson 2003a) of temperate to subtropical and tropical areas of the world. Some are cultivated as ornamentals, for fodder, for use in revegetation, or for edible seeds, while others are considered significant weeds (Watson & Dallwitz 1992). Eragrostis tef (Zucc.) Trotter, TEFF, of ne Africa, is cultivated as a grain crop (a staple cereal in Ethiopia) and the straw is used in the manufacture of brick. This or other Eragrostis species were used in making bricks for Egyptian pyramids (3359 B.C.) (Costanza et al. 1980; Watson & Dallwitz 1992; Mabberley 1997). Some species have inflorescences which break off at maturity and disperse the seeds by acting as “tumbleweeds.” All species are characterized by C₄ photosynthesis, with the “startling exception” of one species (Watson & Dallwitz 1992). Some of the East TX species with few-flowered spikelets are extremely similar morphologically and difficult to distinguish (e.g., E. intermedia, E. lugens). According to Clayton and Renvoize (1986), some species are “very close” to Sporobolus. Recent studies (Hilu & Alice 2000, 2001; Van den Borre & Watson 2000) raise questions about the monophyly of Eragrostis as traditionally delimited; a number of small segregate genera need to be included for Eragrostis to be monophyletic (Ingram & Doyle 2004). (Derivation of name uncertain; according to Peterson (2003a), “Nathaniel Wolf (1776), the person who first named Eragrostis, made no statement concerning the origin of its name. Clifford (1996) provides three possible derivations: from eros, ‘love’, and Agrostis, the Greek name for an indeterminate herb; from the Greek er, ‘early’ and agrostis, ‘wild,’ referring to the fact that some species of Eragrostis are early invaders of arable land; or the Greek eri-, a prefix meaning ‘very’ or ‘much,’ suggesting that the name means many-flowered Agrostis. Many authors have stated that the first portion of the name is derived from eros, but none have explained the connection between Eragrostis and passionate expressions of love, the kind of love to which eros applies.”) (subfamily Chloridoideae, tribe Cynodonteae)