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Saccharum spontaneum


Saccharum spontaneum L.

Family Name: Poaceae (Gramineae)
Synonyms: Saccharum canaliculatum, Saccharum semidecumbens, Saccharum propinquum, Imperata spontanea
Common Name: Wild Sugarcane, Kans Grass, Fodder Cane, African Fodder Cane, Asian Fodder Cane, 甜根子草


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 Shrub, Grass & Grass-like Plant
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Irregular
Maximum Height 2 m to 4 m


Native Distribution Africa, Italy, Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, China, Taiwan, Japan, Indochina, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Coastal Forest, Riverine, Grassland / Savannah/ Scrubland, Disturbed Area / Open Ground, Desert / Semi-Desert), Shoreline (Mangrove Forest, Sandy Beach)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical, Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal, Temperate, Mediterranean, Desert / Arid

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Tall perennial clumping grass, up to 4m height, with erect habit, deep roots and long spreading rhizomes. Secondary genetic relative of sugarcane.
Foliage Leaf blades linear, green with white midrib, margins finely serrated and prickly. Culms (leaf stalks) slender, fibrous with little juice, arranged in small clumps, 1-4m tall, turning brown or black when mature.
Flowers Spikelets of florets with long silky white hairs, borne in branching panicle inforescences (20-60cm tall) that typically tower above the rest of the plant. Plume branches ascending and often tinged reddish or purplish. Blooms towards end of rainy season in native range, but rather free-flowering in Singapore.
Fruit One-seeded caryopsis grains (1.5mm), tufted and dispersed by wind.
Habitat Distributed across tropical to subtropical regions of the Old World. Found at river banks, lakesides, freshwater and saline marshes, sandy beaches, sand dunes, silt plains and grasslands. Regarded as weedy or invasive in certain regions, where it quickly colonizes and forms pure stands in areas left by retreating floods, or invades pasturelands.
Cultivation Fast-growing and hardy. Prefers lots of moisture, but tolerant of drought. Withstands a wide range of soil types, including alluvial, infertile, sandy and saline soils. Tolerates heavy grazing. Prune regularly to maintain leaf state. Use gloves to prevent cuts by sharp leaf edges. Propagate by division of rhizomes, or seeds. Seeds exhibit poor germination rates, but germinated seedlings are tolerant of harsh conditions.
Etymology Genus epithet 'Saccharum' derived from Greek term 'saccharon' (sugar or sweet juice), a reference to the sugarcane genus. Species epithet 'spontaneum' means 'spontaneous', probably referring to the plant's fast growth and ability to to colonize disturbed areas readily.
Ethnobotanical Uses Food (Herb and Spice)
Others: Agriculture: Species crossed with the economically-important relative Saccharum officinarum (Cultivated Sugarcane) to produce disease-resistant sugarcane varieties. Tender young leaves used as fodder for buffaloes and cattle in India, and to feed elephants in other areas. Young leaves also made into hay for dry-season feed. Food: Tender shoots cooked as vegetable in Java, Indonesia. Seed grains eaten in Uganda. Before imported salt became available in Uganda, a type of vegetable salt was extracted from the ashes of roasted leafy canes. Medicinal: Roots regarded in Ayurvedic medicine as sweet, astringent and diuretic -- used to treat respiratory problems, constipation and piles. Products: Leaves used to make thatch and brooms. Canes (culms) used as fencing material, to make arrow shafts, fish-traps and beds, or processed into pulp to make paper. Culture: Species is regarded in India as representative of the Brahmin caste (traditionally consisting of priests and scholars). Leaves used in the religious worship of Lord Brahma, the Hindu god of creation and progenitor of humans.

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers
Landscape Uses General, Coastal, Riverine, Flowerbed / Border, Hedge / Screening, Beachfront / Shoreline
Thematic Landscaping Naturalistic Garden, Wildflower Garden
SGMP Treatment
Usage Hazard - Cons Spines/Thorns - Leaf, Invasive / Potentially Invasive
Plant & Rootzone Preference or Tolerance Remarks Tolerates wide range of soils, including infertile shifting sand dunes.

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Bird Attracting
Pollination Method(s) Abiotic (Wind)
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water, Little Water
Plant Growth Rate Fast
Rootzone Tolerance Dry Soils / Drought, Well-Drained Soils, Poor Infertile Soils, Waterlogged Soils (Drains Site), Saline Soils / Salt Spray
Maintenance Requirements Moderate
Propagation Method Seed, Storage Organ, Division


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green, White
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Spiny / Bristly / Stinging
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Alternate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Linear)
Foliar Venation Parallel
Foliar Margin Serrate / Toothed
Foliar Apex - Tip Acuminate
Typical Foliar Area Notophyll ( 20.25cm2 - 45 cm2 )
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 3.5 (Shrub & Groundcover - Monocot)

Non - Foliar and Storage

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

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Cream / Off-White, Pink, White
Inflorescence Type Panicle
Flowering Period Free-Flowering
Flowering Opening Time Time-Independent
Flower Lifespan on Plant Several Days
Flowering Habit Polycarpic

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Brown
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type Indehiscent Dry Fruit , Caryopsis / Grain

Image Repository



Master ID 17192
Species ID 3340
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: 14 October 2021.