En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Insects on non-native euonymus in Lake Orion MI
June 23, 2010 - I had a greenlane euonymus that had a few flies last year but was infested with thousands this year. We ripped it out, it was an 8 year old plant. Do you know why they are attracted to it now?
view the full question and answer

Fruiting of non-native fig trees
September 30, 2007 - Regarding a Fig Tree that I have, it's about 3yrs old. Last year it gave us about a handful of figs and they were good. This year the small tree is full of figs and they remain green. This summer I h...
view the full question and answer

Non-native jade plant from Pauline SC
August 24, 2012 - Do jade plants grow in South Carolina; if, so where?
view the full question and answer

Selective herbicide for non-native bermudagrass from Venice FL
December 02, 2010 - Is there a selective herbicide that can be used for grasses like Floratam and Bermuda along with various weeds that will not damage Wedelia?
view the full question and answer

Removing faded flowers from plants in Georgetown, DE
July 28, 2012 - I bought a chamase rose quartz that was in bloom. now the buds are dead, should i remove them or just leave them on the plant. they wont just fall off. and the tips of the plant has new growth.
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