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What is Eragrostis?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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Erogrostis is a genus of grasses belonging to the Poaceae family that contains approximately 350 species. Often referred to by the common name lovegrass, dense clusters of these grasses can provide shelter for small animals. Many animals in the wild feed on the grasses in this genus, and they can be used as food for livestock as well. Eragrostis amabilis is often used as an ornamental plant, and Eragrostis tef is cultivated for food in countries such as Eritrea, South Africa, and Ethiopia.

The reason one species of Eragrostis tef is grown for food is because it is very nutritious. It is known to have a high amount of protein, calcium, and iron. As of 2010, this plant has begun to be cultivated in the United States, specifically in Idaho and Kansas. This very adaptive plant also goes by the names taf and teff. Eragrostis tef is able to deal with varying conditions, tending to survive droughts as well as cope with the over-saturation of soil with water.

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Eragrostis spectabilis, commonly known as purple plains lovegrass, is a deciduous perennial plant that thrives in moist sandy soil. This species is commonly thought of as a weed and has invasive potential. In the summer this plant produces an inflorescence that breaks off and acts like a tumbleweed. The inflorescenses are fluffy and bronze-red in color. Due to its drought tolerance and ability to grow in infertile and generally poor soil, it is sometimes used as a road-side plant or for ground cover or borders in gardens.

Another species, Eragrostis curvula or the weeping lovegrass, was introduced to the United States from South Africa. It is used for erosion control, as it is fast-growing and quickly covers an area to prevent further erosion. This species has no pests that threaten it, but it does not live long and must be protected from livestock if not planted for grazing purposes. Like many other species in the genus, the weeping lovegrass thrives in low fertility soil; however, it does not tolerate cold climates well. The seeds of this plant are commercially available.

This genus has uses besides feeding livestock, preventing erosion, and acting as ornamental plants. In some countries, it is considered an inferior livestock food and is used to make household goods such as brooms, baskets, and candles instead. As late as the 1980s, it was reportedly being used in Lesotho as food for people and for funeral rituals. Some species are folk remedies for diabetes and anemia, and are used as a stimulant and anhidrotic.

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