The broad-leafed bristle grass is a very tall, robust, tufted,
perennial grass which is shade loving. It may be found along rivers
in low-lying areas or forests and in dense bushveld where there
is plenty of moisture. It occurs in tropical and subtropical areas
of Africa, America and India where there is high rainfall. In South
Africa this species is mostly found in the summer rainfall areas
in the savanna, grassland and forest biomes.
The plant genus name Setaria is derived from the Latin word
'seta', meaning a bristle; and the species megaphylla from
the Greek word 'mega' which means large and 'phylla' the leaf. This
name describes the size of the leaves.
This grass plays a major role in water purification as it absorbs
excess nutrients from the water. It can also be used to stabilize
unstable soil and prevent soil erosion. This is because it naturally
colonises disturbed areas and is often found near water.
As a pasture grass it is good for grazing while still young when
it is palatable with high leaf production. This species may be confused
with S. lindenburgiana, which has smaller leaves and inflorescences.
Growing Setaria megaphylla
species is very attractive and may be used as a garden ornamental,
lining the borders of larger beds with its pendulous flowers. It
can be planted in groups or clusters. The colour of the foliage
is an attractive green and it remains green until late in the growing
season. Good texture and colour combinations can be created by using
this grass effectively in the garden. Its leaf texture also makes
it an attractive choice for a container. Setaria megaphylla
attracts birds to the garden as finches; canaries and other seed
eating birds eat the seed. The leaves are also used by weavers to
build their nests.
The best propagation technique of this type of perennial grass
is by division as it forms large rootstocks and creeping stolons.
Sexual propagation by means of seed can also be done, although in
most instances large quantities of seed will not be available. Seed
should be collected once the inflorescence has dried out. The dry
inflorescences must be removed, placed in paper bags and shaken
to release and catch the seeds. The best time to sow the seed is
from December to February (midsummer).
- Bromilow, C. 1995. Problem plants of South Africa. Briza Publications.
- Gibbs Russell, G.E. 1990. Grasses of Southern Africa. National
Botanic Gardens/ Botanical Research Institute Publishers. Pretoria.
- Van Oudtshoorn, F.P. 1999. Guide to Grasses of South Africa.
Briza Publications. Cape Town.
Van Oudtshoorn, F.P. 1992. Guide to Grasses
of South Africa. Briza Publications. Cape Town.
A. Hankey and L. Mashinini
Witwatersrand National Botanic Garden