Herbs & Plants

Panicum maximum

Botanical Name:Panicum maximum
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Panicoideae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Poales
Genus: Megathyrsus
Species: M. maximus

*Panicum hirsutissimum Steud.
*Panicum maximum Jacq.
*Urochloa maxima (Jacq.) R.D.Webste

Common Names: Guinea grass and Green panic grass Guinea grass, Buffalograss, Yerba de Guinea, Zacate Guinea, Herbe de Guinée, Capime guiné.

Habitat: Panicum maximum is native to Tropical and subtropical Africa from Senegal to Ethiopia and Somalia, south to S. Africa, the Arab Peninsula and islands in the west Indian Ocean. It grows on the grasslands, open woodlands and shady places.

Megathyrsus maximus is a perennial, erect, tufted and robust grass, up to 3-4 m tall, with large, branched panicles. Stem short and stout, underground rootstock, hariy at the nodes. Leaves linear-lanceolate up to 75 cm long. Inflorescence is a conical panicle with horizontal branches, spikelets awnless with one fertile floret. The seed is 1 mm long and light brown.

It is a C4 plant, which tolerates very well hot and dry conditions. For this reason it can be found either in irrigated crop areas or dry waste places.

The plant also can reproduce through Apomixis effectively cloning itself through seed. Panicles are open, with as many as 9000 seeds per plant.


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

Edible Uses: Seed – cooked. Small and very fiddly to collect any quantity, it is generally only used in times of food shortage.

Medicinal Uses:
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.

Other Uses:
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.

It can be used as a long-term foraging grass, if grazed consistently and if fertilized. It is well suited for cut-and-carry, a practice in which grass is harvested and brought to a ruminant animal in an enclosed system. Shade tolerance makes it suited to coexisting with trees in agroforestry. Some varieties have been used successfully for making silage and hay. The leaves contain good levels of protein, 6-25% depending on age and nitrogen supply.

Known Hazards: 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.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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