Cenchrus ciliaris 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Liliopsida Poales Poaceae

Scientific Name: Cenchrus ciliaris L.
Common Name(s):
English Buffalo Grass, African Foxtail Grass, Buffel Grass
Pennisetum ciliare (L.) Link
Taxonomic Source(s): Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2012. World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Available at:
Taxonomic Notes: Cenchrus ciliaris L. is a wild relative of pearl millet P. glaucum (L.) R.Br. C. americanum (L.) Morrone (syn. Pennisetum glaucum (L.) Br.). This species is classified in Taxon Group 4, following the definition of Maxted et al. (2006).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2017-02-21
Assessor(s): Allen, R.
Reviewer(s): Kell, S.P.

Cenchrus ciliaris is widespread throughout its native region of Africa, Indonesia, Arabia, Pakistan, Canary Islands, Madagascar and India. It is a common species and occurs in a variety of habitats and over a range of altitudes, up to 2,000 m asl and, within this very large extent of occurrence (EOO), the area of occupancy (AOO) is also inferred to exceed the values for a threatened category.  The population is currently believed to be stable, the only known threat is a fungal blight, occurring in Texas and India. The species also occurs as an invasive species in a number of other countries. Therefore it is assessed as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Cenchrus ciliaris is native to Africa, (Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Madagascar, Mozambique, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Niger), Indonesia, Pakistan (Sind, Baluchistan, Punjab & N.W.F.P.) Afghanistan, Canary Islands, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, and Sicily (ARS-GRIN) . It occurs at elevations from sea level up to 2,000 m asl. It grows as an introduction in North, Central and South America as well as Australia.
Countries occurrence:
Afghanistan; Algeria; Botswana; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; India; Indonesia; Iraq; Israel; Italy (Sicilia); Jordan; Kenya; Libya; Madagascar; Mali; Morocco; Mozambique; Namibia; Pakistan; Portugal (Madeira); Saudi Arabia; South Africa; South Sudan; Spain (Canary Is.); Sudan; Swaziland; Tanzania, United Republic of; Tunisia; Uganda; Yemen; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):2000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:This species is common and widespread in its native range.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:A common caespitose grass which grows in heavy, limestone and sandy soils, in desert conditions, and dry tropical savannas. It can tolerate low pH, and is drought tolerant (Marshall 2012, CABI 2014).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This grass is used widely in tropical and sub-tropical arid rangelands around the globe as a pastoral species, due to its high nutritional value to sheep and cattle, high tolerance to drought and an ability to withstand heavy grazing (Marshall 2012). It is a relative of, and potential gene donor to the crop Pearl Millet.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The distribution falls within one Conservation International Biodiversity Hotspot of Magagascar. 

There is currently a known threat for this species in Texas, USA, although this is not its native region, as well as in India. A fungal blight caused by the heterothallic ascomycete fungus Magnaporthe grisea is affecting this species. Since Cenchrus ciliaris reproduces by apomixis (an asexual method of seed production), there is very little genetic diversity in its stands. Therefore, strains of Cenchrus ciliaris that are resistant to Magnaporthe grisea are not likely to develop naturally. Until disease resistant strains are developed, the blight will continue to cause enormous damage to Cenchrus ciliaris pastures in Texas (Morisawa 2000). This disease has become a serious threat to both forage and grain production in Pearl Millet in India (Sharma 2013). It is not known whether this will pose a future threat to other populations within its native range, more research will be needed.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The National Plant Germplasm System holds 950 germplasm accessions of this species. The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership has 39 accessions. Seed is also conserved ex-situ at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault with 20 germplasm accessions (7,700 seed). With 375 accessions in Australia (Genesys accessed 2017). Seed is collected and stored in situ in Kenya as well as sent to the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, as part of the Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change project (Dempewolf et al 2014).

According to the Red List of South African Plants and the Jordan Plant Red List, this species is assessed as Least Concern (Fish 2005, Taifour 2014).

There are no known conservation measures specifically for this species, however its native distribution overlaps with several protected areas in Tropical Africa, inferred using GeoCAT (Bachman et al. 2011) so passive conservation is presumed in these areas. However, there is no evidence of active management or monitoring of this species.

The genus Pennisetum (syn. Cenchrus) is listed in Annex I of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) which aims to guarantee sustainable agriculture and food security through the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, as well as ensuring the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use (FAO 2009).

Citation: Allen, R. 2017. Cenchrus ciliaris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T13490705A13490709. . Downloaded on 17 August 2018.
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