1. Family: Poaceae Barnhart
    1. Genus: Eleusine Gaertn.
      1. Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn.

        Finger millet (Eleusine coracana) is a variety of millet grown in the arid parts of Africa and Asia. It is one of the most nutritious of all the world’s cereal crops, containing high levels of starch, calcium, iron and methionine, an amino acid that is absent from the diets of millions of the poor who live on starchy foods such as cassava and plantain.

    Annual; caespitose. Basal innovations flabellate. Culms erect; 60-200 cm long; 5-20 mm diam. Culm-internodes elliptical in section. Leaves mostly basal. Leaf-sheaths keeled; outer margin hairy. Ligule a ciliolate membrane. Leaf-blades conduplicate; 30-60 cm long; 6-12 mm wide.
    Inflorescence composed of racemes. Peduncle glabrous, or pilose above (at raceme base). Racemes 4-7; digitate; erect; linear, or oblong; incurved; unilateral; 3-8 cm long; 9-15 mm wide. Rhachis wingless; flattened. Spikelet packing broadside to rhachis; crowded; regular; 2 -rowed. Spikelets solitary. Fertile spikelets sessile.
    Spikelets comprising 3-9 fertile florets; with diminished florets at the apex. Spikelets ovate; laterally compressed; 5-10 mm long; persistent on plant.
    Spikelets comprising 3-9 fertile florets; with diminished florets at the apex. Spikelets ovate; laterally compressed; 5-10 mm long; persistent on plant.
    Glumes similar; shorter than spikelet. Lower glume lanceolate; 2-5 mm long; 0.6-0.7 length of upper glume; membranous; 1-keeled; winged on keel; 1-3 -veined. Lower glume apex acute. Upper glume elliptic; 3.5 mm long; 0.8-0.9 length of adjacent fertile lemma; membranous; 1-keeled; winged on keel; 5-7 -veined. Upper glume apex acute.
    Fertile lemma lanceolate in profile; 4 mm long; membranous; 3 -veined (excluding subsidiaries). Lemma midvein with contiguous subsidiary veins (3-veined). Lemma apex acute. Palea 0.9-1 length of lemma; 2 -veined. Apical sterile florets resembling fertile though underdeveloped.
    Lodicules 2; cuneate; fleshy.
    Caryopsis with free soft pericarp; orbicular; isodiametric; biconvex; exposed between gaping lemma and palea at maturity; 1.5-2.5 mm long; dark brown; rugose.
    Europe: northern and central. Africa: north, west tropical, west-central tropical, northeast tropical, east tropical, southern tropical, south, and western Indian ocean. Asia-temperate: western Asia, Arabia, China, and eastern Asia. Asia-tropical: India, Indo-China, and Malesia. Australasia: Australia. Pacific: southwestern and northwestern.
    Eragrostideae. Fl Iran.

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description

    Finger millet (Eleusine coracana) is a variety of millet grown in the arid parts of Africa and Asia. It is one of the most nutritious of all the world’s cereal crops, containing high levels of starch, calcium, iron and methionine, an amino acid that is absent from the diets of millions of the poor who live on starchy foods such as cassava and plantain.

    Finger millet is popular in dry areas because it can lie dormant for weeks. As soon as the rains come, the grain springs to life and is ready for harvesting in just 45 days.

    One of the drawbacks of finger millet production is that it is labour-intensive, leading farmers to favour the production of maize, sorghum and cassava instead. In addition to this, finger millet is stigmatised as a food for the poor, a perception which has had serious health implications. In households where rice has replaced finger millet as the staple diet, nutritional deficiency and anaemia are widespread. 

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Eleusine coracana is cultivated in north and central Europe, Africa, temperate Asia (western Asia, Arabia and China) and tropical Asia (India, Indo-China and Malesia), Australia and the southwestern and northwestern Pacific. 


    Overview: Eleusine corocana  is an annual with erect stems 60-200 cm long, which clump together at the base.

    Leaves:  The stems are flattened and enclosed by hairy leaf sheaths. The ligule (the appendage between the sheath and the blade of the leaf) is a fringe of short hairs. The lamina (leaf blade) is up to 60 cm long and is folded upwards along the midrib. 

    Flowers:The inflorescence is composed of 4-7 racemes (unbranched axes along which the spikelets are arranged).The fertile spikelets (the clustered units of flowers and bracts typical of grasses) are sessile and comprise 3-9 fertile florets. The upper and lower glumes (empty bracts that enclose the florets) are of different sizes, the lower glume is 2-5 mm long and has 1-3 veins running through it. The upper glume is 3.5 mm long, with 5-7 veins.The lemma (the outer bract which encloses the flower in a spikelet) of the fertile floret is 4mm long and lance-shaped (lanceolate) and three-veined and pointed (acute) at the apex. The sterile florets resemble the fertile florets, although they are underdeveloped. The flower contains 2 fleshy wedge-shaped lodicules (small structures at the base of the stamens). 

    Fruits: The fruit is a small and round caryopsis (a fruit in which the seed is fused to an outer wall), 1.5-2.5 mm long, dark-brown in colour and exposed at maturity.


    The main use of finger millet in Africa is to provide malt to make local beer and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. For example, 'areki' is a popular Ethiopian liquor produced from finger millet.

    The grains of finger millet can be ground into a flour to be used in porridge or to make 'cakes' which are then wrapped in maize husks or banana leaves and then roasted. Mashing a banana into finger millet flour and then making flat cakes to be fried or baked makes for a delicious treat.

    Finger millet straw is used as fodder for cattle, sheep and goats. In Uganda by-products of beer are used to feed chickens, pigs and other animals.

    Medicinally, finger millet seed is used as a prophylaxis for dysentery. In southern Africa the juice of a mixture of finger millet leaves are leaves of Plumbago zeylanica are taken as an internal remedy for leprosy.

    Finger millet straw is used for thatching and plaiting and in China for paper making. In Sudan the leaves are made into string. 

    Crop wild relatives of finger millet

    Wild crop relatives of finger millet are an important source of genetic diversity which can improve the yield of the crop and provide resistance to diseases, such as 'blast', which is the most serious disease of finger millet. Blast resistance genes have been found in crop wild relative, Eleusine africana , commonly known as African finger millet. Some varieties of this wild relative exhibit a high protein content and are nutritionally rich in calcium. The potential of the wild relatives of finger millet to improve the crop is huge.

    The Millennium Seed Bank and the Global Crop Diversity Trust is engaged in a project called 'Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change', which focuses on the wild relatives of 29 of the most important food crops, including finger millet. The project aims to protect, collect and prepare crop wild relatives for use in breeding programs so that their genetic potential can be harnessed to make our crops more resilient in the face of climate change. 

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plants worldwide, focusing on those plants which are under threat and those which are of most use in the future. Once seeds have been collected they are dried, packaged and stored at -20°C in our seed bank vault.

    Description of seeds: Average 1,000 seed weight = 3.2 g

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

    Seed storage behaviour: Orthodox (the seeds of this plant can be dried to low moisture contents without significantly reducing their viability. This means they are suitable for long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)

    Germination testing: Successful

    This species at Kew

    Pressed and dried specimens of finger millet are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. Details of some of these specimens can be seen online in Kew's Herbarium Catalogue.

    The Economic Botany Collection houses a number of finger millet artefacts, among them a Ugandan basket woven from the stems of finger millet. 

    Australia, China, India
    Savannah and upland grassland.
    Widespread in cultivation.
    Food, drink, bird seed, traditional medicine, fodder, thatching, paper making.



    Found In:

    Angola, Burkina, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Repu, Chad, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Socotra, Zaïre

    Introduced Into:

    Afghanistan, Andaman Is., Assam, Bangladesh, Brazil West-Central, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Czechoslovakia, East Himalaya, Egypt, Fiji, Gulf States, Hainan, India, Inner Mongolia, Japan, Jawa, Laos, Lesser Sunda Is., Libya, Malaya, Maldives, Mali, Maluku, Marianas, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicobar Is., Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Carolina, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Taiwan, Thailand, Transcaucasus, Trinidad-Tobago, Tunisia, Vietnam, West Himalaya, Western Australia, Yemen

    Common Names

    Finger millet

    Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn. appears in other Kew resources:

    First published in Fruct. Sem. Pl. 1: 8 (1788)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] (2016) Phytotaxa 250: 1-431
    • [2] Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015) The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan . Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [3] (2014) Zprávy Ceské Botanické Spolecnosti 49: 73-206
    • [5] Girmansyah, D. & al. (eds.) (2013) Flora of Bali an annotated checklist . Herbarium Bogorensis, Indonesia
    • [6] (2012) Boissiera 65: 1-391
    • [7] Onana, J.M. (2011) The vascular plants of Cameroon a taxonomic checklist with IUCN assessments . National herbarium of Cameroon, Yaoundé
    • [8] (2010) Index synonymique de la flore d'Afrique du nord 1: 1-455. Éditions des conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Genève
    • [10] Clayton, W.D. & Snow, N. (2010) A key to Pacific Grasses . Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [11] (2009) Indian Journal of Forestry 32: 657-668
    • [12] (2008) Encyclopedia of Flora and Fauna of Bangladesh 12: 1-505. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh
    • [15] (2008) Strelitzia 22: 1-279. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria
    • [18] (2007) Flora of the Arabian peninsula and Socotra 5(1): 1-387. Edinburgh University Press
    • [19] Newman, M., Ketphanh, S., Svengsuksa, B., Thomas, P., Sengdala, K., Lamxay, V. & Armstrong, K. (2007) A checklist of the vascular plants of Lao PDR . Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh
    • [21] (2006) Flora of China 22: 1-733. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis
    • [23] Clayton, W.D., Harman, K.T. & Williamson, H. (2006) World Grass Species - Synonymy database . The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [24] Takhtajan, A.L. (ed.) (2006) Conspectus Florae Caucasi 2: 1-466. Editio Universitatis Petropolitanae
    • [25] (2005) Flora of Australia 44B: 1-486. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra
    • [26] Boulos, L. (2005) Flora of Egypt 4: 1-617. Al Hadara Publishing, Cairo
    • [27] Miller, A.G. & Morris, M. (2004) Ethnoflora of Soqotra Archipelago . The Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
    • [28] (2003) Contributions from the United States National Herbarium 45: 1-590
    • [29] Flora of North America Editorial Committee (2003) Flora of North America North of Mexico 25: 1-781. Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford
    • [30] (2000) Flora of Bhutan 3(2): 457-883. Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh
    • [31] Jongbloed, M., Western, R.A. & Boer, B. (2000) Annotated Check-list for plants in the U.A.E. . Zodiac Publishing, Dubai
    • [32] Press, J.R. et al. (2000) Annotated Checklist of the Flowering Plants of Nepal . Natural History Museum, London
    • [33] (1995) Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea 7: 1-430. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia & The Department of Systematic Botany, Upps
    • [34] Dassanayake (ed.) (1994) A Revised Handbook to the Flora of Ceylon 8: 1-458. Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. PVT. LTD., New Delhi, Calcutta
    • [35] (1992) Scripta Botanica Belgica 2: 1-153
    • [36] (1989) Lejeunia; Revue de Botanique , n.s., 132: 1-127
    • [37] Karthikeyan, S., Jain, S.K., Nayar, M.P. & Sanjappa, M. (1989) Florae Indicae Enumeratio: Monocotyledonae . Botanical Survey of India, Calcutta
    • [38] Troupin, G. (ed.) (1988) Flora du Rwanda 4: I-X, 1-651. Musee Royal de l'Afrique Centrale
    • [39] Koyama, T. (1987) Grasses of Japan and its neighboring regions: an identification manual . Kodansha, Tokyo, Japan
    • [40] Boudet, G., Lebrun, J.P. & Demange, R. (1986) Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Mali . Etudes d'Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux
    • [41] (1982) Flora of Pakistan 143: 1-678. Department of Botany, University of Karachi, Karachi
    • [43] Lebrun, J.P. (1973) Énumération des plantes vasculaires du Sénégal . Maisons Alfort: Institut d'élevage et de médecine vétérinaire des pays tropicaux
    • [44] (1972) Flora of West Tropical Africa , ed. 2, 3(2): 277-574
    • [45] (1971) A revised flora of Malaya 3: 1-319. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Singapore
    • [46] (1970) Flora Iranica 70: 1-573. Naturhistorisches Museums Wien
    • [47] Lewalle, J. (1970) Liste floristique et répartition altitudinale de la flore du Burundi occidental . Université officielle de Bujumbura
    • [48] Bosser, J. (1969) Gramiées des pasturages et des cultures a Madagascar . ORSTOM, Paris


    • [4] Forzza, R.C. & al. (2013) Lista de Espécies da Flora do Brasil . http://floradobrasil.jbrj.gov.br/2010/
    • [9] Beentje, H. (2010). The Kew Plant Glossary: an Illustrated Dictionary of Plant Terms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [13] (2008) Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 32: 403-500
    • [14] (2008) Pleione 2: 98-105
    • [16] Mabberley, D.J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: a Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses. Third edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
    • [17] Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2008). Seed Information Database (SID). Version 7.1.
    • [20] Clayton, W.D., Vorontsova, M.S., Harman, K.T. and Williamson, H. (2006 onwards). GrassBase - The Online World Grass Flora.
    • [22] Brink, M. & Belay, G. (2006). Cereals and Pulses: Volume 1 of Plant Resources of Tropical Africa. PROTA.
    • [42] Boulvert, Y. (1977) Catalogue de la Flore de Centrafrique 2(2): 1-94. ORSTOM, Bangui
    • [49] (1957) Atoll Research Bulletin 58: 1-37
    • [50] H. Lecomte (1922) Flore Générale de l'indo-Chine 1(3): 193-336


    GrassBase - The Online World Grass Flora
    [A] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
    [B] See http://kew.org/about-kew/website-information/legal-notices/index.htm You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    [C] © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
    [E] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0