Alleppo Millet Grass

Sorghum halepense

By Jim Conrad [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Status: Common

A tall perennial weed of the Poaceae family commonly found in fields and roadsides of the Mediterranean area. From its base it splits into several straight smooth rigid stems that can grow to a height of 2m. The leaves are linear, ribbed, slightly dentate and sharp at their edges, with a mid-vein which is noticeably lighter in color on the underside.

The Millet Grass multiply by its extensive spreading rhizome as well as very successful sexual reproduction. The scaly rhizomes can bore down to a depth of 120 cm, extensively effecting the soil.  The reddish –brown inflorescence is a large pyramidal panicle that can be 50 cm in length, with branches in whorls. From each branch, central rachis, sprout several primary branches which may sprout several secondary branches, upon which grow the spikelets, enclosing the florets, petal-less flowers. These spikelets, are usually found in pairs, however sometimes found as a threesome with one is sessile and perfect spikelet and two spikelets on a peduncle which are sterile or contain only a stamen. The florets are nestled between two reddish brown to black, glossy and finely lined glumes. Fertile spikelets are ovoid, hairy, 4.5-5.5 mm long and brownish purple when ripe. Awns if present are 1-2 cm (0.39 - 0.78 inch) long, twisted and abruptly bent. 
 . It is an extremely successful invasive weed worldwide which competes successfully with the local flora, reduces soil fertility and acts as a host for crop pathogens. There is a high level of self-pollination. The dormancy and high level of longevity of the seeds contribute to its invasive success.

Flowering period: The time of flowering is two months after growth has begun, determined by temperature and photoperiod locally, generally from May to December. The seeds that are enclosed in shiny reddish brown to black glumes are easily dispersed by wind and rain, and are viable after digestion by animals. They generally don't germinate the year of their formation.

Ecology: It flourishes in heavy soils and warm, dry, and open habitats. The seeds are eaten by Spanish and House Sparrows as well as some Buntings and Doves. It is common to see Turtle Doves around concentrations of the grass in late august.

Common and medicinal uses: Its seeds have a diuretic and demulcent effect It can be cooked for consumption as is rice, or ground to flour used in baking breads and cakes.

Distribution in Palestine: It is common in the upper Jordan Valley, Jenin area, the mountains and desert of Samaria and Judea as well as the Dead Sea valley.