POACEAE Eleusine

Eleusine [genus] (2,019)
E. coracana (9,963)
Synonyms: Cynosurus coracanus , Eleusine tocussa Fresen
E. indica (4,919)


POACEAE Eleusine

Eleusine [genus] Gaertn. POACEAE

Common names: Goose Grass, Yard Grass (Hortus)

Africa, 8 spp.; S Am., 1 sp. Ann. or per. grasses. Spikes 1 to several, stout, digitate, at the summit of the stems, sometimes with 1-2 a short distance below, spikelets few-to several-fld., flattened, awnless, sessile, closely imbricate, in 2 rows along one side of a rather wide rachis, rachilla disarticulating above the glumes and between the florets, seed loosely enclosed (Hortus Third 1976: 421) E & NE Africa, S Am. Stoloniferous grasses (Griffiths 1994: 409). Some grown for ornament (Bailey & Bailey 1941: 276). Grasses of tropics & warm temp. regions of Old World. E. indica has spread to the New World also (Burkill 1966: Vol. 1 page 930). Has the C4 photosynthetic pathway, like most grasses (Edwards & Walker 1983). Millets: Echinochloa, Eleusine, Panicum, Pennisetum, Setaria [also Paspalum, Sorghum.] (Hortus Third 1976: 1264). Millets are various small-seeded ann. grasses used for grain & forage; 7 genera at least. Many are staples in parts of Asia & Africa, called ‘poor man’s cereal’. Grown like sorghum in regions of limited rainfall. Often grown as mixed crops with legumes. Mature quickly, 3-4 months. Mostly in India, cult. since prehistoric times; also Pakistan, Africa S of the Sahara. In India alone, 80 million acres, yield 12 million tons of grain. In US added to stock feed, birdseed. Often for emergency or catch crops; will grow in a wide range of soils in semi-arid climates. In SE Eu. made into a flat bread or a porridge, or fermented as a beverage. In W China, India, Pakistan, S USSR, eaten as whole grain, ground into flour, or sprouted & eaten (Schery 1972: 440). In lowland valleys of Tibet, they make chang beer from buckwheat [Fagopyrum, Polygonaceae] or this millet, instead of or mixed with barley [Hordeum] (Wilkes 1968: 347)


POACEAE Eleusine coracana

Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn. POACEAE

Synonyms: Cynosurus coracanus ., Eleusine tocussa Fresen.

Common names: Finger Millet, African Millet, Ragi, Korakan (Hortus) Kurukkan, Coracan (Griffiths) Nachani (Britannica) Kurkan (Dalziel) Eleusine, Natchnee, Ragu, Murwa, Tellaboon, Tocusso, Dagussa, Degussa (Sturtevant) Shina (Abbas)

Old World tropics. Tufted ann. to 6 ft. Lvs. to 2 ft. long, 0.5″ wide. Spikes 4-7, to 3.2″ long, 0.4″ wide, at length curved inward. Similar to E. indica but more robust. An imp. food grain of India and Africa (Hortus Third 1976: 421). Tetraploid. Cult. in Ethiopia 3d millenium BC, the earliest African agriculture. Seeds viable for 10 years without weevil damage (Mabberley 1998: 252). Cult. as a cereal and/or for alcoholic beverage in Ceylon, India, Africa, etc. (Willis 1973: 407). A cultigen derived from E. indica; greater vigor, globose grain, correspondingly higher yield. Now cult. throughout trop. Africa, India, Malaysia in backward areas eg. cent. Sumatra. Has been tried in Malaya. Long cult. in India, has Sanskritic names, prob. there when Aryans arrived ca. 1300 BC. Some say it is the Soma of the epics [unlikely!]. Negroes of Africa prob. grew it in remote times. Not adopted in Egypt until the start of the Christian era. Intensively cult. in Ethiopia and around the Great Lakes, much less cult. in West Africa. Occupies the ground 2.5 to 4 months. So quick-growing it is often sown in the short wet season of dry regions, when the rain failed to arrive in time to sow better crops. Elsewhere it has a place in crop rotation when the interval is short. Races have diff. season length, diff. water requirements. The grain is bitterish: food of the poorer classes. Makes a light beer in Bombay, Himalayas, Abyssinia. Not recommended as fodder. Chem. as nutritious as growing oats, and better than other fodder crops. Straw thick, tough at base, so when grown for grain it cannot be used as feed. Ripe grain fed to animals. In India has been experimentally malted for use in infant foods; better than rice but grains too small (Burkill 1966: Vol. 1 page 930). Eastern Asian peoples do not use malting as in the West. They make little cakes of fungus culture that change rice starch into dextrose, so when yeast is added the dextrose will ferment to give a beer. Many names in diff. places, showing the antiquity of this practice. Ragi is the Malay word, this name is supposed to come from the Deccan word for E. coracana. If so, the device of fermenting by way of fungus came from S India at a time when the source of the starch was this millet rather than rice. Millet is still used in parts of India to make beer, but not to make cakes of fungus culture (Burkill 1966: Vol. 2 page 1632). In Mysore & neighboring districts the most important grain is rágí; called náchani in Bombay. Invaluable as fodder for cattle. In Madras classed as a ‘dry crop’, sown under either monsoon. Farther N, classed with the kharif or autumn harvest, as opposed to wheat (Encyclopaedia Britannica 1893: India: Agriculture: Millets) In Madura, a district in Madras Presidency, the principal food crops after rice are millets, include ragi (Encyclopaedia Britannica 1893: Madura) Cynosurus c.: In Kádur or Cadour, a district of Mysore in S India, E of the Western Ghats, rice is the staple crop, but the principal unirrigated crop is rágí. The natives prefer it to rice, as affording more sustenance (Encyclopaedia Britannica 1893: Kadur) Agriculture along the Indus began with domesticates from the Middle East: wheat [Triticum], barley [Hordeum], lentils [Lens, Leguminosae}. Then started growing native tropical plants: rice [Oryza], cotton [Gossypium, Malvaceae], sesame [Sesamum, Pedaliaceae]. Finally received exotic African cultivars: jowar, Sorghum [Poaceae]; bajra, Pennisetum [Poaceae]; ragi, Eleusine; and gram, Vigna [Leguminosae] (Maisels 1999: 214) In Sikkim & Bhutan, where barley is not grown, make a chang-like beer called marwa from this millet. Husk & boil the grains; when they absorb as much moisture as they can, dump on bamboo mats. Work in powdered yeast cakes, then after an hour spread out to dry. When still damp seal in a wicker basket lined with ferns, or put on a fern-covered mat, cover with plantain lvs. [Musa, Musaceae] in summer or a blanket in winter. After 2-4 days depending on the season, the fermentation is ready; check by the smell of the mash. Transfer to a fresh basket lined with lvs., put in a dry place. May be stored for 3 months, though best after 2 weeks. Certain people in the community are noted for their ability to make good marwa. Always drunk warm: put the fermented grain in individual containers, pour on boiling water and drink through a bamboo straw to keep from swallowing the grains. The first filling is strong, the second & third are weaker, often given to invalids & children. For an esp. strong drink, soak the grains in water and store the liquid. Arak is distilled from marwa in much the same way that Tibetans disill chang. Except in the poorest houses, marwa is drunk as a regular part of the diet, as chang is in Tibet. Marwa is a distinctly Mongolian drink, v. distinct from ancient beverages of India (Wilkes 1968: 351) Cult. in parts of N Nigeria chiefly to make beer, which is regarded as a food. Also for a sweet black gruel to mix with molasses, seeds are usually dark also. In many parts of Cent. & E Africa it is still cult., both as a staple food and for malt. In S Africa, used with Plumbago zeylanica [Plumbaginaceae] as a remedy for leprosy (Dalziel 1948: 527). From E African highlands. Call the wild African finger millet E. coracana var. africana, and the domesticated one var. coracana. An imp. cereal in Africa, India. Used for beer, porridge, soup, bread, cake, puddings; one ingredient in the distilled liquor called arak or arake. Flour of malted grain used in India as food for infants, invalids, diabetics; also a prophylaxis for dysentery. de Candolle & many others thought it orig. in India, domesticated from the weedy E. indica. Others believed it was African, from E. africana, or independently domesticated in both regions. E. indica 2n18, E. coracana 2n36. Statistical analysis of 37 morph. chars.: the wild sp. is E. coracana var. africana, not E. indica; the domestic one E. coracana var. coracana (Hilu & de Wet 1976: 199). S Am., E Indies, Egypt. Cult. on a large scale in tropics. Elliott 1863 says it is the most productive of all Indian cereals, staple grain of Mysore Country. In Sikkim, fermented to make a drink called murwa. Grain the size of a mustard seed, dark-colored, made into cakes or porridge. Pleasant taste, aperient nature. Eaten in Coromandel Coast, Japan. In cent. Africa flour soaked in water overnight makes a v. fair unleavened bread. Mixed with durra [Sorghum bicolor] makes a pleasantly bitter beer. Schweinfurth 1874 says it is called telaboon by Arabs, tocusso by Abyssinians. Grown only in the poorest soils, disagreeable taste, makes only a wretched sort of pap [The Abyssinian tocusso may be Eragrostis tef.] (Sturtevant 1972 [1919]: 252). Eleusine tocussa: Abyssinia. Furnishes a bread corn called degussa. Parkyns 1856 said the bread was unpleasant, leaves a gritty sandy taste in the mouth and passes through the stomach with little change. Unger 1859 said it was from the E Indies [Degussa may be Eragrostis tef, though GRIN places it here.] (Sturtevant 1972 [1919]: 253). An imp. millet in S India, a food staple in S Sudan, N Uganda. Dense digitate spikes. Unlike most millets, requires coolish weather, adequate rainfall. Yields not v. high (Schery 1972: 441). This & Pennisetum are the most imp. millets as human food. Finger millet is a staple in E & cent. Africa, S Asia. Can stand exceedingly long storage, to 10 years or more; weevils avoid the grain, and the grain itself does not deteriorate. Higher in protein and the sulfur-containing amino acids than are rice [Oryza], maize [Zea] or pearl millet [Pennisetum]. In Ethiopia ground, made into large flat breads called injera, or eaten as porridge. Once ground it must be used quickly, because the germ is not removed and the flour becomes rancid. Also malted, used to make beer (Simpson & Ogorzaly 2001: 125). In Fiji prob. intro. by Indians. Sometimes cult. as a cereal, found around Indian settlements (Parham 1972). Hollis 1909: When the eleusine grain is ripening, the Nandi in Brit. E Africa have a ceremony. Every woman who owns a plantation goes with her daughters into the fields, makes a bonfire of lvs. & branches of the trees Solanum campylanthum [Solanaceae] and Lantana salvifolia [Verbenaceae]. Pick the eleusine, each of them puts one grain in her necklace, chews another and rubs it on her forehead, throat, breast. No joy is shown by the women; they sorrowfully cut a basket of the grain, take it home, put it in the loft to dry (Frazer 1959). A per. [?] plant of Bahrain. Grains boiled, used as tonic, astringent (Abbas, El-Oqlah & Mahasneh 1992). Valid species & both synonyms (GRIN 2006)

Eleusine coracana subsp. africana (Kenn.-O’Byrne) S.Phillips

Common names: Crowsfoot grass (Mabberley)

Tetraploid race of pantrop. weeds, toxic to stock. Ancestor to E. coracana (Mabberley 1998: 252) Valid taxon (GRIN 2006)



POACEAE Eleusine indica

Eleusine indica (L.) Gaertn. POACEAE

Common names: Wiregrass, Goose Grass (Hortus) Yard Grass (Griffiths) Rumput sambau (Burkill) Licoro (Junod II) Fowl Foot Grass (Bodner) Crabgrass (Mabberley) Dog’s-tail Grass (from Doris)

Old World tropics, now a pantropical weed. Tufted ann. to 3 ft., branching at the base, ascending to prostrate, v. smooth. Leaf blades flat or folded, to 9″ long, 0.2″ wide. Spikes mostly 2-6, flat, to 7″ long, 0.2″ wide, erect, spikelets about 0.2″ long. Intro. & nat. from MA to SD, KS, to FL, TX (Hortus Third 1976: 421). One of the 10 worst weeds. (Guinness 1980). Ann. grass, widely dist’d in warmer parts of the world. In Malaya found in man-made clearings. A weed in cult. ground, elsewhere useful as fodder. Seeds pass uninjured through the intestines of bullocks, so the plant follows tracks where bullock-carts are driven through the forests. Young plants, root & all eaten in Malaya by people. Grain a famine food in India, parts of Africa. Cattle eat the young plant. Usually a good food on analysis, sometimes v. good; sometimes contains hydrocyanic acid, but no record of poisonings. Haulms become hard, used occasionally in Java, Philippines, for plaiting. Malays hold the grain in their hand in spirit-summoning ceremonies. A symbol of the settled soil, used in the brush used to sprinkle ceremonial rice-paste. May be tied to the wooden pestles with which new rice is pounded, or the mat in which it is wrapped. In the brush for sprinkling in rice ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, and in spirit-summoning to help the sick. Malaya, leaf juice given after childbirth to help expel the after-birth. Cent. Sumatra, medicine for worms. Cambodia, whole plant for fevers, liver complaints, as a sudorific, esp. the root (Burkill 1966: Vol. 1 page 932). A good fodder for all stock. Suitable for pasture for both dry & moist conditions. Seeds used as food in scarcity. Analysis: v. rich in nitrogen. Deep fibrous root-system causes trouble in farms, but suggests it may be useful for binding river banks. A Hausa proverb: Tumi, thou canst not be hoed up while seated. The Bakwiri people of Cameroons Mt. treat haemoptysis by an infusion of the whole plant (Dalziel 1948: 527). This sp. is prob. cult. in some parts of SE Africa (Junod 1962: Vol. 2) A weed of W Bengal rice fields. Valued as a fodder in Australia, N Am. Lvs. reported to be strongly cyanogenetic esp. when wilted. Grains a famine food. In Philippines made into hats (Datta & Banerjee 1978: 298). In the N Philippines, Bontoc of Luzon use it in mangmang rituals. A wild plant, not protected (Bodner & Gereau 1988). Weed in which toxic conc. of nitrates have been measured (Kingsbury 1964: 42). In Trinidad, grass & root decoctions for cystitis, heat, pneumonia. Plant contains alkaloids and a cyangogenic glycoside (Wong 1976: 109). Ann. grass to 25 cm high, in bloom to 100 cm., branched, fibrous-rooted. Infl. of 3-8 spreading terminal spikes to 7 cm long. Nat. as a weed in lawns, fields, waste places; sea level to 3,000 m. Colombia, decoction of plant much used for diarrhea, dysentery, convulsions. Venezuela, seed decoction given to infants suffering from black jaundice. Similar uses in Philippines, SE Asia. Seeds contain a sig. amt. of HCN, the young plant has less. Under some conditions the grass may accumulate toxic levels of nitrate. Seeds abundant, have been used as food for humans and for domestic fowl in Colombia, elsewhere. Good forage for cattle when young (Morton 1981: Vol. 1 page 30). Upland Tepehuan in Chih. cook all parts of this plant for a tea used to relieve acute stomach distress (Pennington 1969). Common in second growth in temp. & hot Tenejapa in Chis. Tzeltal have no uses (Berlin, Breedlove & Raven 1974: 406). Intro. in the US for lawns [?], used in the South as a pasture grass. In England the name Dog’s Tail Grass is also applied to another lawn and pasture grass, Cynosurus cristatus. (from Doris) Yard Grass is this sp. in the US, also Cynodon dactylon (Oxford English Dictionary. 1971: Yard-grass). Valid species (GRIN 2006)



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