1. Family: Poaceae Barnhart
    1. Genus: Imperata Cirillo
      1. Imperata cylindrica (L.) P.Beauv.

        Imperata cylindrica, or alang-alang, is regarded as a very serious weed in tropical countries. It spreads by scaly rhizomes and can invade and over-run any disturbed ecosystem, including cultivated fields. It is very difficult to eradicate.


    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    Alang-alang is considered one of the ten worst weeds in the world, but has many uses as a traditional medicine.

    Imperata cylindrica, or alang-alang, is regarded as a very serious weed in tropical countries. It spreads by scaly rhizomes and can invade and over-run any disturbed ecosystem, including cultivated fields. It is very difficult to eradicate.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Alang-alang is native to Asia, Micronesia, Australasia, Europe, southeast USA, Mexico and Africa and is estimated to cover 2,000,000 square kilometres (including natural grasslands) throughout the tropics.


    Imperata cylindrica is perennial, with basal leaves 3-100 cm long, 2-20 mm wide and stiff with scabrous leaf-blade margins. The flowering head is loosely cylindrical with abundant white silky hairs concealing the flowering parts.


    Alang-alang is used in land reclamation and for soil erosion control on account of its vigorous, rhizomatous habit. However, these same characteristics make it a serious invasive species in pastures, abandoned cultivation and deforested areas throughout the tropics and subtropics and is considered by IUCN’s Invasive Species Specialist Group as one of the world's worst weeds.

    The stems of Imperata cylindrica are used as thatch, the stems and leaves for making ropes, and its fibres are used to make paper. In southeast Asia and Africa alang-alang is used in traditional medicine for treating a wide range of ailments.

    Its rhizome is used for treating blood system disorders, nausea, indigestion and jaundice. In China the rhizome is used as a diuretic, a restorative tonic, and to stop bleeding; in southeast Asia it is used for treating diarrhoea and dysentery. In Namibia, the stems are ground into a powder used as a cosmetic, and also cut into pieces and strung for decorations. Alang-alang is generally regarded as having poor forage value.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: Ten

    Seed storage behaviour: Orthodox (the seeds of this plant survive being dried without significantly reducing their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)

    Germination testing: Successful

    Australia, Mexico
    Seasonally wet places and alongside streams; a common and aggressive weed of disturbed places and cultivated fields.
    Considered by IUCN to be one of the world's worst weeds.

    Not recorded

    Perennial. Rhizomes elongated; scaly. Culms erect; 10-120 cm long. Leaves mostly basal. Ligule a ciliolate membrane. Leaf-blades erect; flat, or convolute; 3-100 cm long; 2-20 mm wide; stiff. Leaf-blade margins scabrous.
    Inflorescence a panicle with branches tipped by a raceme. Panicle spiciform; linear; 3-22 cm long. Primary panicle branches accrescent to a central axis; with evident branchlets on axis. Racemes bearing few fertile spikelets. Rhachis tough; subterete. Rhachis internodes filiform. Spikelets in pairs. Fertile spikelets pedicelled; 2 in the cluster. Pedicels filiform; unequal.
    Spikelets comprising 1 basal sterile florets; 1 fertile florets; without rhachilla extension. Spikelets lanceolate; subterete; 2.2-6 mm long; falling entire. Spikelet callus bearded; base truncate. Spikelet callus hairs white; 2-3 length of spikelet.
    Spikelets comprising 1 basal sterile florets; 1 fertile florets; without rhachilla extension. Spikelets lanceolate; subterete; 2.2-6 mm long; falling entire. Spikelet callus bearded; base truncate. Spikelet callus hairs white; 2-3 length of spikelet.
    Glumes similar; exceeding apex of florets; firmer than fertile lemma. Lower glume oblong; 1 length of spikelet; membranous; without keels; 5-7 -veined. Lower glume surface villous; hairy below. Lower glume apex obtuse. Upper glume oblong; 2.2-6 mm long; membranous; without keels; 5-7 -veined. Upper glume surface villous; hairy below. Upper glume apex obtuse.
    Basal sterile florets barren; without significant palea. Lemma of lower sterile floret similar to fertile lemma; oblong; 0.5 length of spikelet; hyaline; 0 -veined; without midvein; without lateral veins; ciliolate on margins; erose; obtuse. Fertile lemma ovate; 1 mm long; hyaline; without keel; 0 -veined. Lemma apex acute. Palea hyaline; 0 -veined; without keels.
    Lodicules absent. Anthers 2; 3-5 mm long. Stigmas 2; terminally exserted.
    Europe: southwestern and southeastern. Africa: north, Macaronesia, west tropical, west-central tropical, northeast tropical, east tropical, southern tropical, south, and western Indian ocean. Asia-temperate: Soviet Middle Asia, Caucasus, western Asia, Arabia, China, and eastern Asia. Asia-tropical: India, Indo-China, Malesia, and Papuasia. Australasia: Australia and New Zealand. Pacific: southwestern and northwestern. North America: southeast USA and Mexico.
    Andropogoneae. FTEA.
    Land reclamation, soil erosion control, thatch, ropes, paper, traditional medicine, cosmetics.



    Found In:

    Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Baleares, Benin, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina, Burundi, Cameroon, Canary Is., Cape Provinces, Cape Verde, Central African Repu, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Corse, Cyprus, East Aegean Is., Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, France, Free State, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Iran, Iraq, Italy, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Kriti, Kuwait, KwaZulu-Natal, Lebanon-Syria, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Madeira, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Northern Provinces, Oman, Palestine, Portugal, Rwanda, Sardegna, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sicilia, Sierra Leone, Sinai, Socotra, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkey-in-Europe, Uganda, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe

    Introduced Into:

    Alabama, Andaman Is., Assam, Bangladesh, Bismarck Archipelago, Borneo, Cambodia, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Christmas I., Cocos (Keeling) Is., East Himalaya, Fiji, Florida, Georgia, Hainan, India, Inner Mongolia, Japan, Jawa, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Korea, Laos, Lesser Sunda Is., Louisiana, Malaya, Maluku, Manchuria, Marianas, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Mississippi, Myanmar, Nansei-shoto, Nepal, New Caledonia, New Guinea, New Zealand North, Nicobar Is., Norfolk Is., North Caucasus, Ogasawara-shoto, Oregon, Pakistan, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Is., South Carolina, South China Sea, Sri Lanka, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Tadzhikistan, Taiwan, Texas, Thailand, Tibet, Tonga, Transcaucasus, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Virginia, Wallis-Futuna Is., West Himalaya, Xinjiang

    Common Names


    Imperata cylindrica (L.) P.Beauv. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    May 1, 1998 Etuge, M. [2204], Cameroon K000339603
    May 1, 1998 Asongani, J.N. [1325], Cameroon K000339604
    Jan 1, 1797 Strachey, R. [2], India K000245566 syntype
    Marcan, A. [2312], Thailand K000620310
    Kerr, A.F.G. [3784], Thailand K000620311
    Kerr, A.F.G. [1097], Thailand K000620312
    Vanderyst, H. [7001], Zaire K000280806
    Dinter [1767], Namibia K000280758
    Drège [4253], South Africa K000280759 Unknown type material
    Parker, R.N. [3458], South Africa K000280760
    Smitinand, T. [8778], Thailand K000688498
    King, R.M. [5427], Thailand K000688499
    King, R.M. [5480], Thailand K000688500
    Nooteboom, H.P. [712], Thailand K000688501
    Chantaranothai, P. [1067], Thailand K000688502

    First published in Ess. Agrostogr.: 165 (1812)

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