Singapore Government Logo

A Singapore Government Agency Website

Cenchrus purpurascens


Cenchrus purpurascens Thunb.

Family Name: Poaceae (Gramineae)
Synonyms: Pennisetum alopecuroides (L.) Spreng.
Common Name: Chinese Fountain Grass, Swamp Foxtail Grass, Swamp Foxtail, Chinese Pennisetum, 狼尾草, 狗尾草, 大狗草, 狗仔尾, 小芒草, 油包草


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Monocotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Grass & Grass-like Plant (Tall Grass (Poaceae))
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Grassy
Maximum Height 1 m
Maximum Plant Spread / Crown Width 0.5 m to 0.6 m


Native Distribution China to Temperate Eastern Asia, Western and Central Malesia, Northwestern and Eastern Australia
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Riverine, Grassland / Savannah/ Scrubland)
Preferred Climate Zone Temperate
Local Conservation Status Non-native (Horticultural / Cultivated Only)

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Perennial tufted grass that grows in slowly-expanding dense clumps usually up to 1 m tall (occasionally up to 1.5 m tall).
Foliage Green, narrow leaves are up to 1.2 cm wide. 
Flowers The cylindrical, foxtail-like inflorescence resembles a spike but is a panicle.  
Habitat Naturally occurs in open lowlands and grassy areas.
Taxonomy The cultivated species cited as Pennisetum alopecuroides in Chong et al. (2009), A Checklist of the Total Vascular Plant Flora of Singapore, is in fact Cenchrus purpurascens Thunb..
Cultivation Prefers sunny spots, tolerates partial shade but may not flower well. Withstands poorly-drained soils, able to grow in 10cm depth of water. Foliage may be cut back from time to time. Propagate by division. Plant tends to be open up in the centre with age -- divide the open clump to rejuvenate it. Not known to be aggressive or sucessfully self-seeding under local conditions. Does not spread by underground rhizomes. Slow-release phosphorus-rich fertilizer may be added to soil mix during planting, but fertilization is generally not necessary after establishment. Excess nutrients may suppress flower formation.
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts : Edible Seeds
Cut - Dried Flower: The inflorescence is ideal for bouquets.
Others: Food: Seeds can be grounded into powder and used as flour. It is used as a famine food in India. 

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers, Ornamental Form
Landscape Uses Coastal, General, Flowerbed / Border, Container Planting
Thematic Landscaping Silver Garden, Water Garden, Naturalistic Garden, Wildflower Garden
SGMP Treatment
Usage Hazard - Cons Invasive / Potentially Invasive

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Pollination Method(s) Abiotic (Wind)
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic (Wind, Water), Biotic (Fauna) (Vertebrates (Other Mammal))

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Lots of Water, Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate
Rootzone Tolerance Easy to Grow, Well-Drained Soils, Poor Infertile Soils, Disease / Pest Resistant, Waterlogged Soils, Moist Soils
Maintenance Requirements Moderate
Pruning Cut back old foliage by two-thirds of its length once a year during active growth.
Fertilizing Use low-phosphorus slow-release fertilizer in potting mix, or apply liquid fertilizer during cultivation. Once planted out, generally does not require fertilization as excessive nutrients may suppress inflorescence production.
Propagation Method Seed, Division
Planting Distance 0.9 m to 1.2 m


Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Smooth, Scaly
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Attachment to Stem Sessile
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Linear)
Foliar Venation Parallel
Foliar Margin Entire, Ciliate / Hairy
Foliar Apex - Tip Acuminate
Typical Foliar Area Mesophyll ( 45cm2 - 182.25 cm2 )
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 3.5 (Shrub & Groundcover - Monocot)
Typical Foliar Size 80 cm

Non - Foliar and Storage

Stem Type & Modification Acaulescent
Root Type Underground (Fibrous Root)
Specialised Storage Organ(s) Underground (Rhizome)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Purple, White, Yellow / Golden
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Terminal
Inflorescence Type Spike
Flowering Period Free-Flowering
Flower Lifespan on Plant Several Weeks
Flowering Habit Polycarpic

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Cream / Off-White
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type Indehiscent Dry Fruit , Caryopsis / Grain


References Darke, Rick. 2007. The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes. USA: Timber Press. 487pp.

Image Repository



Master ID 15637
Species ID 3333
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 28 September 2023.