En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Invasive, non-native Eragrostis cilianensis, stink grass

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - March 22, 2005

From: Brooklyn, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Invasive, non-native Eragrostis cilianensis, stink grass
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

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?

ANSWER:

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

Edible plants beginning with I, T, X and Z in Colorado
March 26, 2009 - My friend would like to know a fruit or vegetable that he would plant in his garden and come back yearly. The plants would have to start with the letters I,T,X, & Z. It has to be edible, of course.
view the full question and answer

Question about non-native tree hardiness
March 06, 2009 - Hi there, im wondering if you can help me. Which of these plants can grow on poorly drained soils. Tamarix Tetandra, weigela 'moulin rogue', ulex europaeus or salix alba?
view the full question and answer

Non-native peanutbutter tree suckering in Oregon City OR
August 02, 2011 - I have a beautiful 'peanutbutter tree' in my yard. I have noted that there are plantlets coming up that appear to be attached to the main root(s) of the tree. I have been breaking them off as I don...
view the full question and answer

Texas native plants that absorb air-borne pollutants
December 15, 2008 - hello mr. and mrs. smarty, I'm looking for native Texas plants that absorb pollutants and trap air-borne particulates. I found a list (below), but don't think they're native. Could you give me ad...
view the full question and answer

Non-native ligustrum in non-native fescue in Medina TX
May 22, 2013 - Is there an effective way to kill baby ligustrums coming up in my fescue yard without harming the grass?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center