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

Nativity of Lantana camara and Strelitzia reginae
November 08, 2011 - I was wondering why Lantana Camara is not in the Wildflower's database. Multiple sources say it is native to the U.S. and North America. I was also wondering if Strelitzia reginae (Bird-of-Paradise...
view the full question and answer

Pine bark on non-native St. Augustine grass in Kingwood TX
May 12, 2010 - I had two large Pine trees cut down. In the process of cutting the trees down there is a lot of pine bark from the tree on my St Augustine grass. Will this affect the growth of my grass?
view the full question and answer

Will the non-native tamarind tree survive in Austin?
October 11, 2010 - We live in the Texas Hill Country and we were given a Tamarind Tree as a gift (which the givers thought was a Pride of Barbados). Is it advisable to plant this in the ground, since it is sensitive to...
view the full question and answer

Texas native plants in an indoor space in Dallas
July 31, 2009 - Is there a native Texas plant that would be suited for an indoor application, such as large planters in a lobby space?
view the full question and answer

Yellowing branches on non-native sago palms after freeze in Rusk TX
January 30, 2010 - My Sago Palms experienced a good freeze. Now they have a multitude of yellowing branches, in fact most of the plant is yellow. Please advise what to do to save my plants. They are about nine years ...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center