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Pennisetum setaceum - (Forssk.) Chiov

Common Name Fountain grass
Family Poaceae
USDA hardiness 8-11
Known Hazards None known
Habitats A densely tufted perennial up to 130 cm tall, growing in rocky hillsides and dry stony plains in grasslands, and occurs at altitudes of 600 to 3,000m. Native to open, scrubby habitats in East Africa, tropical Africa, Middle East and SW Asia.
Range Native range of this species is tropical Africa, it is found in Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Jordan, Afghanistan and Sicily. It has also naturalized in North America, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Australasia, Namibia, South Africa, Micronesia, Fiji and New Caledonia.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (0 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Pennisetum setaceum Fountain grass

tato grasso wikimedia.org
Pennisetum setaceum Fountain grass
Forest & Kim Starr starrenvironmental.com


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Pennisetum setaceum is a PERENNIAL growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 1.5 m (5ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 9.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Cenchrus setaceus (Forssk.) Morrone. Pennisetum cupreum Hitchc. [Invalid]. Pennisetum erythraeum Chiov. Pennisetum macrostachyum Fresen. [Illegitimate]. Pennisetum macrostachyon Fresen. [Spelling variant]. Pennisetum numidicum Paris [Invalid]. Pennisetum orientale var. altissimum Chiov. Pennisetum orientale subsp. parisii Trab. Pennisetum orientale var. parisii (Trab.) Leeke. Pennisetum parisii (Trab.) Trab. Pennisetum phalaroides Schult. [Illegitimate]. Pennisetum ruppellii Steud. Pennisetum ruppellii var. depauperatum Schweinf. Pennisetum scoparium Chiov. Pennisetum setaceum var. parisii (Trab.) Maire. Pennisetum spectabile Fig. & De Not. Pennisetum tiberiadis Boiss. Phalaris setacea Forssk.


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed
Edible Uses:

Carbon Farming Solutions - Staple Crop: balanced carb (The term staple crop typically refers to a food that is eaten routinely and accounts for a dominant part of people's diets in a particular region of the world) [1-1]. A minor or regional crop in production with low or unreported yields [1-1]. A number of Pennisetum species have edible seeds - no detailed information could be found for this species.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

None Known

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds. Fountain grass is well adapted to fire and fires may contribute to fountain grass spread. Fountain grass is of little grazing value due to its coarse rough leaves. A popular ornamental.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Management: Standard  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Balanced carb

Climate: warm temperate to subtropical, Mediterranean. Humidity: semi-arid. Light: Sun to Partial Shade. Soil pH requirements: 6.1 (mildly acidic) to 7.8 (mildly alkaline). It grows in most soils, even poorly drained soils preferring exposed, dry habitats, particularly rocky areas but can also grow in sandy soils such as coastal grasslands. It is drought-tolerant and fast growing. Becomes facultativlely inactive with extended drought, freezing, or near-freezing temperatures. Carbon Farming Solutions - Cultivation: regional crop. Management: standard (Describes the non-destructive management systems that are used in cultivation) [1-1].

Carbon Farming

  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.
  • Staple Crop: Balanced carb  (0-15 percent protein, 0-15 percent oil, with at least one over 5 percent). The carbohydrates are from either starch or sugar. Annuals include maize, wheat, rice, and potato. Perennials include chestnuts, carob, perennial fruits, nuts, cereals, pseudocereals, woody pods, and acorns.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plants can be grown from cuttings. It can also be grown by seeds or division of the clump. This is a very easy grass to propagate.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Fountain grass, African fountain grass, crimson fountaingrass,

Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Native range of this species is tropical Africa, it is found in Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Jordan, Afghanistan and Sicily. It has also naturalized in North America, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Australasia, Namibia, South Africa, Micronesia, Fiji and New Caledonia.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Fountain grass or African fountain grass is a highly invasive tufted grass. Plants are used as ornamentals and once escaped, this grass can form dense stands that exclude all other plants. It has been used for soil stabilisation and is a weed of pastures and alongside railway lines and roads. It interferes with natural fire regimes and competes with native species for limited resources.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Status: Least Concern ver 3.1

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Pennisetum alopecuroidesChinese Fountain Grass, Fountain Grass, Swamp Foxtail Grass, Chinese Fountain GrassPerennial1.5 5-9 FLMNDM103
Pennisetum cereale Perennial0.0 -  LMNDM10 
Pennisetum glaucumPearl MilletAnnual3.0 -  LMNDM21 
Pennisetum purpureumNapier grass. Elephant grassPerennial4.0 8-11 FLMHSNM224

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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(Forssk.) Chiov

Botanical References

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