Paspalum scrobiculatum

rice grass


Paspalum scrobiculatum

L. 1767

pronounced: pass-PALE-un scrow-bik-yew-LAH-tum

(Poaceae — the grass family)


common names: rice grass, Kodo millet

Paspalum is derived from the Greek πασπαλος (paspalos), a kind of millet; scrobiculatum is Latin, from scrobiculus, a little ditch or trench.

This annual grass is native to sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and various Indian Ocean Islands. It is now pan-tropical. It is a grass of tropical and subtropical rainforests, dry sclerophyll forests and coastal grasslands. In Australia it is found in northern Western Australia, Arnhem Land, the Gulf Country. Cape York Peninsula, and right down the east coast of Queensland and NSW.

It has rhizomes, and there may or may not be stolons. The culms are erect or geniculately ascending or decumbent, anywhere from 10 to 150 cm tall, 1 – 6 mm in diameter, and 2 – 17-noded. The mid-culm nodes are glabrous; the lateral branches are sparsely branched. The surfaces of the leaf-sheaths are glabrous. There may or may not be leaf-sheath auricles. The ligule is an eciliate membrane, anything up to 3 mm long. The leaf blades range in length from 5 to 40 cm, and 3 to 15 mm in width.

The inflorescence is compound, a panicle of racemes. There are 1 – 20 of these, spreading, 2 – 15 cm long, 1.7 – 2.5 mm wide, bearing 30 – 110 fertile spikelets on each. The spikelets are pedicelled. The fertile spikelets are 2-flowered, the lower floret usually barren, but sometimes male, and the upper fertile.

The seeds are very small, ellipsoidal, approximately 1.5 mm in width and 2 mm in length. They vary in colour from light brown to dark grey

On the Indian subcontinent it is used as a secondary cereal, as well as in fodder and forage for livestock. In parts of Africa it is used as a famine food. It is very hardy and drought-tolerant, and can survive on marginal soils where other crops may not survive.

There are medical uses. The leaves are regarded as antiseptic in action, and their paste is applied externally to skin infections. In various places the species is used to treat carbuncles, diabetes, intoxication, ophthalmia and parturition problems.

The plant is susceptible to attack by many insect pests, of which the chief is the shoot fly Atherigona simplex. The skipper butterfly Pelopidas mathias is an occasional pest. The green leafhopper Nephotettix nigropictus sucks the sap from leaves and shoots.


Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.


Photographed in Picnic Bay 2010
Page last updated 17th February 2019