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Guinea Grass
patch of guinea grassPanicum maximum

Buffalo grass

A native of Africa, this grass was introduced to almost all tropical countries as a source of animal fodder. Its seeds are still sold commercially today for this purpose.

Its leaves are fine and soft and contains good levels of protein (13-21%).
Mangrove and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
Main features: Grows up to 2m tall.

Leaves: Long narrow, fine, soft.

Flowers: Inflorescence of tiny flowers.
seeds (close up)
Fruits: Rice-like seed heads.

Status in Singapore: Common in wastelands.

World distribution: Native to Africa, it has been introduced to almost all other tropical countries.

Classification: Family Poaceae.
It is an ideal forage plant as it grows well on a wide variety of soils and even under light shade of trees and bushes (and thus can be grown with other crops). It can survive long dry spells and quick-moving fires which does not harm the underground roots. It also responds quickly to fertiliser and watering. It grows from sea level up to 1,200m. The seeds are dispersed by birds.

Role in the habitat: Its seeds provide food for birds such as Munias, and the long leaves provide nesting material for birds like the Baya Weaver (Ploceus philippinus). They also provide shelter for smaller creatures to hide in.

On the one hand, Guinea Grass is considered as a suitable plant to stop soil erosion on slopes (it has dense root mats) while providing valuable fodder. On the other hand, it is considered a dangerous exotic weed that suppresses or displaces local plants. Its resistance to drought also means it builds up a dangerous mass of plant material so when fires occur, the blaze is fiercer and native plants which have not built up fire-tolerance are wiped out. As Guinea Grass can survive fires, it dominates the ground after a fire.

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Nature's Niche
By Ria Tan, 2001