Megathyrsus maximus: Guinea grass

Family: Poaceae
Common name: Guinea grass, Green panic grass, Guineagrass, Tanganyika grass, Buffalograss, Slender guinea grass, Castilla

Guinea grass is a robust perennial grass species that is native to Africa but has been introduced to various regions around the world due to their excellent forage and soil erosion control properties. They are tall and can reach heights of up to 3 meters, with erect sturdy stems that are covered with small, white hairs.

Guinea grass roots are short, creeping rhizomes that can be divided to form multiple plants. Leaves are narrow, bright green, approximately 1-1.5 cm wide with a prominent midrib.

The flowering stage of Guinea grass occurs during the summer months when they produce large, feathery panicles up to 60 cm long.

These panicles consist of numerous spikelets, each containing tiny flowers that are 3-4mm long. The spikelets have a bristly texture, which aids in wind dispersal of the seeds.

The seeds are small, light brown, and have a tough outer shell. A single plant can produce as many as 9000 seeds helping in quick propagation. These seeds can be dispersed through wind, water, or animal fur.

Guinea grass prefers good sunlight and well-drained soil. They are tolerant to drought, heavy rains, and also fire. New leaves can grow from charred stumps of roots when the conditions are favorable.

These are good grazing plants because of their lush, green leaves and abundant growth. They are also good cut-and-carry grass for cattle because of the height, and ease of cutting. Guinea grass is used extensively for erosion control since their strong roots can cover the soil effectively preventing erosion of top soil.

While primarily recognized for its forage and erosion control qualities, this grass is also used to treat various ailments, including diarrhoea, dysentery, and digestive disorders. The leaves and stems are believed to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects.

Propagation is through seeds and root division. Ripe seeds can be collected from mature panicles and sowed in prepared seedbeds or directly in the desired planting location. Ensure good soil-to-seed contact by lightly raking or covering the seeds with a thin layer of soil. Keep the soil moist until germination occurs, which typically takes 7-10 days.

Divide established clumps of Guinea grass during the early spring. Dig up the clump and carefully separate it into smaller sections, making sure each division has adequate roots and shoots. Replant the divisions in prepared soil, spacing them at least 30-45 centimeters apart.