From:Brooklyn, NY Region: Northeast Topic: Non-Natives Title: Invasive, non-native Eragrostis cilianensis, stink grass Answered by: Nan Hampton
I am writing a children's book for Darby Creek Publishing about smelly plants and animals. I have read that Eragrostis cilianensis is one of the few bad-smelling grasses. Would the purpose of the odor be to protect the plant from being eaten? If so, why don't more grasses smell bad?
Eragrostis cilianensis, stink grass, is an invasive non-native grass from the Mediterranean that now occurs throughout the United States and is considered a weed. Livestock will eat it when it is young, but is generally avoided when it is mature or there are more desirable grasses to eat. The disagreeable odor (and, presumably, taste) comes from glands which occur in rings below the leaf nodes. There seems to be some disagreement as to whether it is just unpalatable or poisonous. It is reported that the grain from stink grass is consumed by humans in Africa during famine situations.
It is debatable whether the bad smell evolved as a defense against grazing or evolved to attract a particular pollinator. Grasses do have other defense mechanisms that keep most mammals from successfully using them as food. Grasses contain cellulose fibers that are indigestible by most animals and many have sharp silica inclusions as well. Ungulates (animals with hooves), however, have evolved specialized teeth that continue to grow throughout their lives to cut and chew the grasses without wearing away their teeth and they have specialized stomachs with symbiotic bacteria to digest the cellulose.
More Non-Natives Questions
Plant identification for shrub in Florida September 03, 2011 - On our street we have ornamental shrub planted in the median that has small waxy green leaves, produces small fragrant white flowers, and red berries with white pulp and small seeds on the inside. Th... view the full question and answer
Identification of Cryptomeria japonica for homeowners association May 09, 2007 - Good morning. We are wondering if Cryptomeria japonica trees can fit under the term "pine like". We used the term pine like when asking for our home owners associations approval and we put in a Cr... view the full question and answer
Invasive, non-native Siberian peashrub for waller TX February 02, 2012 - Good Morning Mr. Smarty Plants! I am trying to find out if the Siberian Pea Shrub is a good plant for Southeast Texas or if it is considered an invasive no no. It seems to have many qualities for wild... view the full question and answer
Non-native Norfolk Pine suffering in Corpus Christi TX August 02, 2011 - About ten yrs. ago I transplanted my Norfolk Pine into the ground in my backyard. With all the frosty weather of 2010/2011 the Spring brought a browning/dying of a lot of the Norfolk Pines in this are... view the full question and answer
Possibility of replacing Bermudagrass with native grasses and wildflowers November 24, 2008 - Are there any native grasses and wildflowers that can compete with bermuda grass to make a nativ-y wild area without removing the bermuda? view the full question and answer