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
Problems with non-native fruit trees in Katy TX May 13, 2010 - I have several species of fruit trees growing. pear, lime, orange, pluot, plum, variegated orange, peach, lemon all planted in ground, some this year and some last year: My lemon (approx 15 gallon) an... view the full question and answer
Division of impatiens grown in a pot December 08, 2007 - I have an impatient and it is growing out of the pot. I was wondering if it were possible to divide it somehow and have two medium size plants. view the full question and answer
Roots of Savannah Holly close to house February 26, 2009 - I live in Sugar Land and want to plant Savannah Holly at the ends of both sides of the front flowerbed. Are the roots too dangerous to plant so close to the house? (How far from the house should they... view the full question and answer
Are non-native Cleveland pear trees poisonous to dogs in Rushsylvania, OH May 11, 2011 - Are Cleveland pear trees poisonous to dogs? view the full question and answer