Saccharum spontaneum

Name and classification

Saccharum spontaneum L.
Family Poaceae, Tribe Andropogoneae

Common names

wild sugarcane


sessile spikelet with pedicel and internode, with or without pedicellate spikelet


Spikelets homomorphic, ca. 3.3–4.5 mm long, ca. 0.5-0.6 mm wide, awnless, of 1 fertile floret and 1 basal sterile lemma. Spikelet callus with silky silvery hairs 2–3 times longer than spikelet (to 12 mm long). Glumes as long as spikelet, papery (chartaceous), dark brown below middle at maturity, membranous and pallid (pale, white, colorless) above, acuminate, upper margins ciliate; lower glume 2–4 nerved; upper glume keeled. Sterile lemma half as long as spikelet, hyaline. Fertile lemma shorter than sterile lemma, hyaline. Internode and pedicel slender, bearing long hairs; internode ca. 3.4–6.1 mm long, pedicel ca. 1.8–3.5 mm long, apex of pedicel flared and hairy.

Identification considerations

Similar species

Saccharum officinarum L. (non-FNW)


native to tropical Africa and Asia

widespread in northern and tropical Africa and South Africa, through the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia to Australia, and throughout much of the Pacific Basin; Central America and the Lesser Antilles, United States

Weedy ecotypes are native to India.


tropical and subtropical, in a wide range of habitats including marshes, stream banks, sand dunes; tolerates many soil types and moisture levels; a weed of roadsides, waste areas, fields

General information

Saccharum spontaneum is a tall perennial grass with deep roots and rhizomes, to 4 m tall. Believed to be a predecessor of the important species S. officinarum L. (cultivated sugarcane), it has also been crossed with S. officinarum to yield hardy, disease-resistant sugarcane varieties. Some of the biotypes of S. spontaneum are weedy, infesting a number of crops, mostly in central and Southeast Asia. In India, it has infested millions of acres, often causing abandonment of fields. Deep plowing has helped reduce populations of the weed.

spikelet with pedicel and internode, subtended by callus

spikelet with pedicel and internode, subtended by callus

spikelet and pedicel

spikelet and pedicel

spikelet, pedicel, and internode

spikelet, pedicel, and internode