WHAT IS ELEPHANT GRASS?

Elephant grass - http://www.prairiestarflowers.com/



The name elephant grass conjures up images of adventure in the African grasslands, and while there is indeed a native African grass that goes by that particular common name there is also a certain amount of confusion. Why? Because two other grass species also go by the same common name.

Pennisetum purpureum

Of the three contenders Pennisetum purpureum is the only one which is a genuine native of the African continent. Also known as Napier Grass, Uganda Grass or Giant King Grass it is robust perennial grass from the Poaceae family.

It is a tall plant able to grow to 2-3.5 metres high, although there are reports of it reaching up to an impressive 7.5 metres. It is clump-forming and produces robust bamboo-like clumps with large, mid-green large leaf blades (up to 120 cm long) with a prominent whitish central vein.

Its flowers are borne on a dense, bristly false spike usually yellow-brown in colour, though occasionally greenish or purplish. It is popular as an animal feed crop as it will tolerate growing in poor, dry conditions.

Saccharum ravennae

Image credit - http://www.greenleafnursery.com/
Otherwise known as Ravenna grass, Saccharum ravennae is a species of grass from the sugarcane genus.

Native to southern Europe and western Asia, this particular species of elephant grass is a large, aggressive species also from the Poaceae family.

It is the smallest of the three species producing erect stems up to 4 meters in height, and serrated leaves up to 1 meter long.

The flowers take the form of plume-like panicle of spikelets which are covered in white or pale-colored silky hairs. It will grow best grows in moist and wet habitat such as marshes and riverbanks.


Miscanthus sinensis

Image credit - http://www.ksuturf.org/OrnamentalGrasses/
Also from the Poaceae family, Miscanthus sinensis is a robust, herbaceous perennial grass native throughout most of China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea. Growing up to 2 m tall, there are reports of it growing up to 4 metres.

Miscanthus sinensis forms dense clumps and is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant in temperate regions around the world. The flowers are purplish, held above the foliage. It will grow quite happily in most fertile, moist but well-drained soil in a position of full sun.

It may require additional watering in sandy or free draining soils. Of the three species Miscanthus sinensis is arguably the most ornamental for garden use and has a large selection of attractive cultivars to choose from.

For related articles click onto the following links:
BBC Elephant Grass
FESTUCA GLAUCA - The Blue Fescue
HOW TO GROW LEMONGRASS
JAPANESE BLOOD GRASS - Imperata cylindrica 'Red Baron'
MISCANTHUS SINENSIS 'COSMOPOLITAN'
PSEUDOSASA JAPONICA
THE GIANT HORSETAIL - Equisetum giganteum

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