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Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Monocots
Cladus: Commelinids
Ordo: Poales

Familia: Poaceae
Subfamilia: Panicoideae
Tribus: Andropogoneae
Subtribus: Rhytachninae
Genus: Vossia
Species: Vossia cuspidata

Vossia cuspidata (Roxb.) Griff.

Notulae ad Plantas Asiaticas 3:12. 1851
USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Vossia cuspidata in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Accessed: 07-Oct-06.

Vernacular names
English: hippo grass

Vossia is a monotypic genus in the grass family, found in Asia and Africa.[2][3][4][5][6] The only known species is Vossia cuspidata,[1] an aquatic grass native to Africa (from Senegal to Egypt, Somalia, south to Namibia),[1][7][8][9][10][11][12] and to Assam, Bangladesh, and northern Indochina.[1][13][14] The common name is hippo grass.[15]

It is a thick-stemmed, hairy, perennial, emergent, freshwater aquatic grass that can grow in dense stands in waters up to 5.5 metres in depth. The stems form a spongy mat as the dry season progresses. In the Kafue Flats region of Zambia, it is the dominant plant of eutrophic, slow-moving waters. It forms fairly monocultural stands with few other species, but shares this habitat with the tiny free-floating aquatic carnivorous plant Utricularia gibba subsp. exoleta in sheltered areas where the waters are calm. Hippo grass can also be found here together with other plants in areas where different habitats meet, transitioning briefly with the herb Polygonum senegalense and elsewhere the tall cane Sorghum verticilliflorum along the banks of the main river course, as well as on the floodplains with the similar but annual aquatic grass Echinochloa stagnina and elsewhere with the water-lily Nymphaea lotus.[16]

In this area it is heavily grazed upon by huge herds of Kafue Flats lechwe, an antelope, which are largely dependent upon it in the dry season. This keeps the mat of stems in check, which allows other herbaceous plants to colonise areas of open water, while at the same time freeing up grass seeds caught in the mat. These overgrazed areas thus create the habitat for some of the profusion of birdlife.[16]

When the waters rise as the annual floods in the Kafue Flats commence, upon regular occasion large chucks of Vossia and Echinochloa stems detach, and these slowly dying clumps of grass become wind-blown floating mats in the swamps, which host their own unique ecosystem, dominated by the sedge Pycreus mundii, and further supporting the sedges Cyperus nudicaulis, C. imbricatus and Scirpus cubensis, and the herbs Alternanthera sessilis, Ipomoea mauritiana, I. rubens, Ludwigia stolonifera, L. leptocarpa and a Commelina species.[16]

In Zambia V. cuspidata flowers from January through May, with a peak at the end of March. It does not flower in years of drought on patches of land which do not flood.[16]

Formerly included[1]

see Phacelurus

Vossia cambogiensis - Phacelurus cambogiensis
Vossia speciosa - Phacelurus speciosus


Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
Wallich, Nathaniel & Griffith, William. 1836. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 5: 572-574 in Latin
Wallich, Nathaniel & Griffith, William. 1836. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 5: plate XXIII (23), figure in center line drawing of Vossia procera (syn of V. cuspidata)
Grassbase - The World Online Grass Flora
Global Biodiversity Information Facility
Boudet, G., Lebrun, J.P. & Demange, R. (1986). Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Mali: 1-465. Etudes d'Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux
Lewalle, J. (1970). Liste floristique et répartition altitudinale de la flore du Burundi occidental: 1-84. Université officielle de Bujumbura
Lebrun, J.P. (1973). Énumération des plantes vasculaires du Sénégal: 1-209. Maisons Alfort: Institut d'élevage et de médecine vétérinaire des pays tropicaux
Hedberg, I. & Edwards, S. (eds.) (1995). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea 7: 1-430. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia & The Department of Systematic Botany, Upps
Aké Assi, L. (2002). Flore de la Côte-d'Ivoire: catalogue systématique, biogéographie et écologie. II. Boissiera 58: 1-401.
Sita, P. & Moutsambote, J.-M. (2005). Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Congo , ed. sept. 2005: 1-158. ORSTOM, Centre de Brazzaville
Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (eds.) (2006). Flore Analytique du Bénin: 1-1034. Backhuys Publishers
Bor, N. L. 1960. Grass. Burma, Ceylon, India & Pakistan i–767. Pergamon Press, Oxford
Ahmed, Z.U. (ed.) (2008). Encyclopedia of Flora and Fauna of Bangladesh 12: 1-505. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh
US Department of Agriculture plants profile
Douthwaite, R. J.; van Lavieren, L. P. (January 1977). A Description of the Vegetation of Lochinvar National Park Zambia (PDF) (Report). National Council for Scientific Research, Lusaka, Zambia. pp. 6–8, 24. Retrieved 4 April 2021.

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