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Thysanolaena latifolia (Roxb. ex Homem.) Honda. 1930
pronounced: thy-san-oh-LEE-nuh lat-ee-FOH-lee-uh
(Poaceae — the grass family)
synonym: Thysanolaena maxima (Roxb.) kuntze. 1891
pronounced: thy-san-oh-LEE-nuh MAX-ih-muh
common names: Tiger Grass, Nepalese Broom Grass
Thysanolaena is from the Greek θυσανος (thysanos), a tassel, fringe, and χλαινα (chlaina), a cloak; latifolia is Latin, latus, wide, and folium, a leaf; in the synonym, maxima is also Latin, from maximus, largest.
Tiger grass occurs in Nepal, where it grows at altitudes up to about 2000 m, in the northern and eastern parts of India, in Bhutan and in the Philippines. It is found growing along steep hills, sandy riverbanks, and damp steep banks along ravines. It is a strongly tufted, very robust, perennial grass, with erect or slightly spreading solid bamboo-like culms, and can grow up to about 3.5 m tall.
The inflorescence is a huge, drooping terminal panicle up to 140 cm long, well-exserted, its branches divided and subdivided into many branchlets. The spikelets have no awns, and are short-pedicelled, falling with part of the pedicel; they are often in pairs on a common peduncle, and are 2-flowered.
In Asia, the young leaves and stem tips are used as cattle and buffalo fodder, and the inflorescences are used to make brooms. The plant is sometimes grazed in its natural state. In other countries, including Australia, it is often used as an ornamental and as a hedge.
The plant can be propagated by rhizomes, rooted culms, or seeds.
When grown as a crop, the mature panicles are harvested in the winter season from January to March. The timing of the harvest is essential. If harvested too soon, even by 5-7 days, the crop is much less, while if it is harvested late, it will begin to wilt. The panicles are harvested by cutting above the level of the soil, or the panicles are pulled out by hand. Great care is taken not to damage the roots during harvest, as the same plants yield their crop for several years, the best crop occurring in the third year.
Broon grass is a significant source of income for subsistence communities, primarily for the women who harvest it, make the brooms, and sell them across Nepal. Apart from its other use as fodder, the planting of this grass has a direct impact on preventing soil erosion on the steep slopes. It grows in clumps, and has tangles of roots that can grow to about a metre below the surface of the ground. It is being planted on marginal soils to help rejuvenate them after the damage from previous slash and burn methods of agriculture. It also helps to attract back such animals as barking deer and monkeys, as the stabilizing effect of the grass aids the regrowth of the plants on which these animals live.
Photographed 2014 in Nelly Bay
Page last updated 6th October 2017