|Palm Grass Quick Facts|
|Scientific Name:||Setaria palmifolia|
|Origin||China, southern Japan, Taiwan, the Indian Sub-continent and south-eastern Asia|
|Colors||Pale brown (seed)|
|Shapes||2 mm long and are egg-shaped (i.e. ovoid), but somewhat flattened.|
|Health benefits||Good for irregular menses, skin disorders, measles, freckle and blemish and toothache|
The name for the genus is from the Latin word ‘seta’ meaning “bristle” referring to the bristles on the spikelets and the specific epithet is in reference to the palm-like look of the leaves. It was first described by the Austrian botanist Otto Stapf in 1914. The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine. It is occasionally cultivated for its edible seeds – some improved forms have been developed in New Guinea. It makes an ideal pot plant in the kitchen or bathroom during the winter. During the colder months – even indoors – its leaves tend to yellow and die back. Snip them off as they yellow.
Palm Grass Facts
|Scientific Name||Setaria palmifolia|
|Native||China, southern Japan, Taiwan, the Indian Sub-continent (i.e. India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) and south-eastern Asia (i.e. Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines).It has been widely introduced to Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands and South and Central America|
|Common Names||African palm grass, bristle grass, bristlegrass, broad leaved bristlegrass, broadleaved bristlegrass, Buddha grass, highland pitpit, highlands pitpit, Indian palm grass, knotroot, Malaysian palm grass, palm grass, palm leaf setaria, palmgrass, palm-leaved setaria, pleated pigeon grass, short pitpit, Hailans pitpit|
|Name in Other Languages||Australia: Pleated pigeon grass
Chinese: Zong ye gou wei cao (棕葉狗尾草), Zhu tou cao, Zhu ye cao, Zong ye cao, Zong mao, you gou wei cao, zhu ye cao, Zeng ye wei cao, Ruo ye fu, Ji mao, Ji ye cao, Chu mao. Zhu lou cao, Zhu ye cao
English: Highland pitpit, Palm grass, Broadleaved bristlegrass, bigleaf bristlegrass, hailans pitpit, knotroot, palmgrass, short pitpit, Malayan palmgrass, Bristlegrass
French: Que de rat
Hindi: Aruna, dhutesaro
Indonesia: Lintabung, rumput daun pisang
Japanese: Sasa kibi (ササキビ)
Malay: Rumput daun pisang, Lintabung (Indonesia)
Nepali: Baanspaate Kaaguno (बाँसपाते कागुनो)
Papua New Guinea: Kura, pitpit
Russian: Shchetinnik pal’molistnyy (щетинник пальмолистный)
Samoan: Vao ‘ofe‘ofe
Spanish: Pasto de palma, zacate de mula
Thai: Ya kap phai (หญ้ากาบไผ่ )
USA/Hawaii: Mau‘u Kaleponi
|Plant Growth Habit||Large, tufted, clump-forming, long lived, evergreen, perennial grass|
|Growing Climates||Mesic valleys, wet forest, open forests, thicket margins, shady path sides, forest fringes, banks of streams, tropical and subtropical rain forests, wet sclerophyll forests, dry sclerophyll forests, Brigalow forests, sub-humid woodlands, semi-arid shrub woodlands, shady path-sides, roadsides, gardens, disturbed sites and waste areas|
|Soil||Prefers a well-drained but moisture-retentive fertile soil|
|Plant Size||Up to 1.5 m tall, but occasionally reaching up to 2 m in height|
|Leaf||Elongated (i.e. linear-elliptic) leaf blades are 40-80 cm long and 3-12 cm wide and are palm-like with a pleated (i.e. plicate) appearance. These leaf blades have rough (i.e. scabrous) but otherwise entire margins and pointed tips|
|Flowering season||December, January, February, March|
|Flower||The flower spikelets are arranged in loose branched clusters (i.e. panicles) usually 20-50 cm long and 2-10 cm wide. These clusters may be stiff or slightly drooping in nature with numerous slender branches, the lower ones up to 20 cm long. The individual spikelets are 2-4 mm long and are oval (i.e. ellipsoid) or elongated (i.e. lanceolate) in shape and borne on short stalks (i.e. pedicels) 1-4 mm long|
|Fruit Shape & Size||2 mm long and are egg-shaped (i.e. ovoid), but somewhat flattened|
|Fruit Color||Pale brown|
|Plant Parts Used||Leaves, seeds|
|Propagation||By Division or seed|
Palm Grass is a large, tufted, clump-forming, long lived, evergreen, perennial grass that normally grows up to 1.5 m tall, but occasionally reaching up to 2 m in height. The plant is found growing in mesic valleys, wet forest, open forests, thicket margins, shady path sides, forest fringes, banks of streams, tropical and subtropical rain forests, wet sclerophyll forests, dry sclerophyll forests, Brigalow forests, sub-humid woodlands, semi-arid shrub woodlands, shady path-sides, roadsides, gardens, disturbed sites and waste areas. The plant prefers a well-drained but moisture-retentive fertile soil. The upright flowering stems (i.e. erect culms) are covered in hairs, particularly near their joints (i.e. nodes). They are generally green in color and quite robust and about 3-7 mm thick.
The tufted leaves consist of a roughly hairy (i.e. hispid) leaf sheath and a very large spreading leaf blade. The elongated (i.e. linear-elliptic) leaf blades are 40-80 cm long and 3-12 cm wide and are palm-like with a pleated (i.e. plicate) appearance. These leaf blades have rough (i.e. scabrous) but otherwise entire margins and pointed tips (i.e. acuminate apices). Upper surfaces are mostly hairless (i.e. glabrous), while their undersides are hairy (i.e. pubescent). Where the leaf sheath meets the leaf blade there is a dense row of hairs (i.e. ciliate ligule).
The flower spikelets are arranged in loose branched clusters (i.e. panicles) usually 20-50 cm long and 2-10 cm wide. These clusters may be stiff or slightly drooping in nature with numerous slender branches, the lower ones up to 20 cm long. The individual spikelets are 2-4 mm long and are oval (i.e. ellipsoid) or elongated (i.e. lanceolate) in shape and borne on short stalks (i.e. pedicels) 1-4 mm long. They are usually subtended by a long bristle (4-10 mm long). Each of these hairless green spikelets consists of a pair of floral bracts (i.e. glumes) and two tiny flowers (i.e. florets). The lower floret has only male parts (i.e. three stamens) or is sterile, while the upper floret has both male and female flower parts (i.e. it is bisexual). Flowering occurs mainly during summer.
The mature seeds (i.e. grains or caryopses) are pale brown in color and remain enclosed within the remains of the flower spikelets. These seeds are about 2 mm long and are egg-shaped (i.e. ovoid), but somewhat flattened.
Traditional uses and benefits of Palm Grass
- The plant is used medicinally.
- It is also used for medicinal purposes, e.g. by the Mek tribes in Iranian Jaya, New Guinea.
- In Perak a compound decoction is drunk for irregular menses.
- In the Philippines it is mixed with ashes of burned leaves to treat skin disorders.
- The Mangyans of Mindoro drink decoction of inflorescence for treatment of measles.
- In the Tao Dam forest, Wangkrajae Village in Thailand, rhizome used by natives as ingredient in herbal mix to treat freckle and blemish.
- It is used for toothache in Bougainville.
- Seeds are boiled or roasted and used as a substitute for rice.
- Hearts of young shoots can be eaten raw, steamed or cooked with rice.
- Very young plants are eaten raw as a side dish with rice.
- Palm Grass has been used in the past as a human food source and may still be in Papua New Guinea.
- Grain of the grass sometimes used as rice substitute.
- In Malaya, tender shoots are eaten as vegetable, raw, steamed, or cooked with rice.
- It is cultivated as an ornamental plant for its palm-like pleated leaves.
- A folk belief in Taiwan holds that the number of latitudinal creases on the leaf predicts the number of typhoons that will hit the area in the coming or current typhoon season.
- It is known locally as typhoon grass.
- It is also used as shading material in plant nurseries.
- In Papua, New Guinea, the species is used for good fortune when playing cards and for hunting birds.
- In New Guinea, leaves used to counter magic spells.