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Genus: Pennisetum

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Poales > Family: Poaceae

There are about 80 species worldwide (warm regions) of which 11 are native to southern Africa and five are naturalised. An additional species is cultivated in the region. Pennisetum glaucum (Pearl millet) is cultivated widely in Africa and India and is also naturalised in southern Africa. Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass) is cultivated as a pasture grass and has also become naturalised.

Species native to southern Africa

List from Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI) and Flora of Zimbabwe.

Pennisetum foermerianum


Pennisetum glaucocladum


Pennisetum macrourum


Pennisetum massaicum

Recorded from Zimbabwe.


Pennisetum mezianum


Pennisetum natalense


Pennisetum polystachion

Recorded from Zimbabwe.


Pennisetum sphacelatum


Pennisetum thunbergii


Pennisetum trisetum

Recorded from Zimbabwe.


Pennisetum unisetum (Natal grass, Silky grass)


Species naturalised in southern Africa

List from Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI).

Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass)

Pennisetum glaucum (Pearl millet)

Native to tropical Africa.


Pennisetum purpureum (Elephant grass, Napier grass, Cameroon grass)

Native to tropical Africa.


Pennisetum setaceum (Fountain grass, Pronkgras)

Indigenous from tropical Africa to southwest Asia. A declared Category 1 invasive plant in South Africa.

Pennisetum villosum (Feathertop, Veergras)

A declared Category 1 invasive plant in South Africa.


Other species, cultivated in southern Africa

From Glen (2002).

Pennisetum nervosum

Native to Brazil.



  • Fish, L. 2003. Poaceae. In Germishuizen, G. & Meyer, N.L. (eds), Plants of southern Africa: an annotated checklist. Strelitzia 14: 1152-1194. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria. 

  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated Plants of Southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.


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