Blady grass (scientific name Imperata cylindrica) is basically a grass species belonging to the genus Imperata. This plant is a member of the grass family known as Gramineae. This species also has red cultivars called Japanese bloodgrass, which are grown in the form of ornamental plants.
This species of grass has sharp leaves and generally they are considered weeds which cause problems for crop farmers. The leaves of blady grass bear resemblance to straight ribbons having flat edge and pointed at the ends. In fact, plants belonging to this species possess the ability to thrive even in very arid locations receiving plenty of sunlight.
Blady grass is a perennially growing rhizomatous grass having its origin in India, Southeast Asia, Australia, Melanesia, and Micronesia, in addition to the eastern and southern regions of Africa. This plant grows up to a height of anything between 0.6 meter and 3.0 meters (2 feet to 10 feet).
The long and sharp leaves of this grass species are roughly 2 cm broad close to the plant's base and gradually become narrower towards the tip, which is pointed and sharp. The margins of the leaves are finely jagged with sharp silica crystals embedded along the edges.
The primary vein of the leaf has a paler hue compared to the remaining areas and the leaf has a tendency to become narrower near the tip ending with a sharp point. The top surface of the leaves close to the plant's base is covered with fine hairs, while their underside generally does not have any hair.
Usually, the roots of blady grass go up to a depth of 1.2 meters into the soil, but when grown in sandy soil they generally do not go deeper than 0.4 meters.
Blady grass (Imperata cylindrica) is found in all the seven continents and is considered to be among the 10 worst types of weeds across the world. In fact, this grass species affects several crops, especially in the eastern and southern regions of Asia.
This interfering weed is a major problem for rubber plantation owners in Asia, as it reduces the growth of rubber trees by as high as 96 percent. In the same way, blady grass is also responsible for weakening the growth of teak trees significantly and also affects the production of yam and cassava yield. This is a very aggressive plant, which has the ability to adapt as well as thrive even in poor soils.
It is very difficult to get rid of this weed owing to its strong rhizomes. On the other hand, people have been using mature blady grass plants for thatching, making ropes, as a packaging material and also make mats since long. While the mature plant of this species is rough, new growths and young plants can be employed in the form of fodder for animals.
Spikes, roots, flowers.
Notwithstanding the invasive nature of Imperata cylindrica, this plant possesses several therapeutic properties and, hence, has various applications in treating a number of health conditions. The flowers as well as the roots of blady grass possess diuretic, antibacterial, febrifuge, tonic, styptic and sialagogue properties.
In addition, the flowers are also used for treating wounds, hemorrhages and other conditions. A decoction prepared with the blady grass flowers is employed for treating infections in the urinary tract, fevers, curing excessive thirst and a number of other conditions.
The root of Imperata cylindrica possesses anti-febrile, astringent, anti-vinous, emollient, diuretic, restorative, tonic and haemostatic properties. Formulations prepared with the root are employed for treating edema, hematemesis, jaundice, haematuria and nose bleeds.
Aside from these properties, the root of blady grass also has anti-bacterial effects against Bacillus dysenteriae, Staphylococcus aureus and other bacteria. A decoction prepared with the root of this grass species is employed in the form of an anthelmintic and also to cure digestive problems like dysentery, diarrhea and indigestion.
Even the bark of the root possesses a number of therapeutic properties like restorative, febrifuge and tonic. It has been found that extracts obtained from blady grass have anti-cancer and viricidal activities.
In several provinces of Tagalog, a decoction prepared from the freshly obtained roots of blady grass is used for treating dysentery. The fruiting spikes are decocted and used in the form of vulnerary. When taken internally, the fruit spike decoction works as a sedative.
This decoction is also employed in the form of a diuretic as well as a blood purifier. This herb is used internally in dosage of anything between 30 grams and 60 grams to cure conditions like epistaxis (nose bleeding), hematuria and hemoptysis.
The rhizome of Imperata cylindrica is employed for treating indigestion, nausea, jaundice and disorders related to the blood system. In China, people use the rhizome of this plant in the form of a restorative tonic and a diuretic, in addition to stop hemorrhage.
On the other hand, in Southeast Asia people use the rhizome to cure diarrhea and dysentery. People in Namibia ground the dry stems of blady grass into a powder and use it in the form of a cosmetic. They also cut the stems into small pieces and use them for decoration by stringing them.
Drinking 80 grams to 120 grams of a decoction prepared from the fresh blady grass rhizome helps to cure infections of the urinary tract. Similarly, drinking a decoction prepared from 60 grams to 120 grams of fresh rhizome or 30 grams to 90 grams of dried rhizome helps to treat painful tongue overgrowth. The rhizome of Imperata cylindrica has also been used for treating conditions like diabetes and arthritis, besides healing wounds.
A decoction prepared from the fruiting spikes of blady grass is employed in the form of vulnerary. In addition, it is also taken internally in the form of a sedative. This decoction is also said to be an effective diuretic and blood purifier. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the herb is used in the form of an anti-inflammatory agent and diuretic. Moreover, the runners of this plant are employed to prepare haemostatic, restorative and anti-febrile medications.
In Chinese herbal remedy, blady grass is used in various formulations. In Vietnam, herbal medicine practitioners use the fresh roots of the plant in the form of a diuretic, while the leaves are employed for treating kidney stones.
Aside from the therapeutic uses of blady grass, this plant is also useful in reclaiming waste land and to prevent soil erosion. It is an effective plant in checking soil erosion because its rhizomes are very strong and vigorous.
Interestingly enough, the abilities of blady grass to prevent soil erosion and reclaim waste land are the properties that make this plant very invasive, especially in deforested areas, abandoned cultivations and pastures. All over the tropics as well as the sub-tropics, this species interferes with agriculture and is regarded to be among the worst weeds of the world.
When dry, the stems of mature blady grass are used for thatching, while the leaves and stems of this plant are employed in making ropes. At the same time, the fibers of this species are excellent for making paper.
Blady grass (Imperata cylindrica) grows in an assorted range of surroundings, which includes cultivated annual crops, grasslands and plantations, embankments along railways and roads, abandoned farm land, hardwood and pine forests, deforested as well as recreational areas.
The habitats of this species include areas located from the sea level to altitudes of 2700 meters and regions receiving annual rainfall of anything between 500 mm and 5000 mm. In North America, this plant is considered to be an invasive species. After the initial invasion, plants of this species often develop into crowded monocultures, which are somewhat field-like.
In disturbed sites, Imperata cylindrica spreads very fast and readily by means of soil containing small parts of the plant's rhizome or its seeds. This often occurs when a site is disturbed owing to site preparation, using contaminated dirt to fill an area, timber harvesting, road grading and other similar issues. Infestations of blady grass can affect the growth and survival of pine trees.
In case of a forest fire, plants of this species can completely destroy the trees, as blady grass contains flammable oils that increase the intensity as well as brutality of burns. It has been found that planting blady grass can have a significant impact in productivity as well as management of pines growing in areas infested by blady grass over a period of time.
Blady grass can be propagated by its seeds sown on the soil surface in a greenhouse during spring. The seeds of this species sprout soon after sowing. When the seedlings have grown sufficiently to be handled, prick them out carefully and plant them in individual containers. They can be planted outdoors during the summer.
This species can also be propagated via root division, undertaken in spring when new growth begins. Propagating blady grass through division is quite simple and it can be undertaken almost throughout the year. However, it is advisable that you plant the divisions undertaken in winter in pots inside a greenhouse. New plants developed from division in winter can be planted outdoors towards the end of spring.
It is quite difficult to get rid of blady grass once the plants have established themselves in any location. This is primarily owing to the persistent nature of the species' rhizomes.