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Tanglar (Themeda arundinacea) -- A Vetiver Supplement? - Literature

Article Index


12. Themeda arundinacea (Roxburgh) A. Camus in Lecomte, Fl. Indo-Chine. 17: 363. 1922

Anthistiria arundinacea Roxburgh, Fl. Ind. 1: 256. 1820; A. subsericans Nees ex Steudel; Cymbopogon arundinaceus (Roxburgh) Schultes; Themeda gigantea (Cavanilles) Hackel subsp. arundinacea (Roxburgh) Hackel; T. gigantea var. sub-sericans (Nees ex Steudel) Hackel; T. subsericans (Nees ex Steudel) Ridley. 

Perennial. Culms tufted, reedlike, stout, up to 6 m tall, 1–1.5 cm in diam. Leaf sheaths glabrous; leaf blades 50–100 × 1–1.5 cm, scabrid, gradually narrowed to the thick white midrib toward base, acuminate; ligule 1–2 mm. Compound panicle large with many drooping branches, each branch bearing spathes subtending 2–3 spatheoles; spatheoles 2–3.5 cm, glabrous; peduncle pubescent at apex. Raceme composed of 0–2 spikelet pairs and a terminal triad above the involucre of 2 homogamous pairs. Homogamous spikelets arising at slightly different levels, male or barren, 12–20 mm, linear-lanceolate, densely hispid with long, golden, tubercle-based hairs, finely acuminate. Sessile spikelet 7–9.5 mm; callus 2–3.5 mm, narrowly cuneate; lower glume oblong-lanceolate, densely strigose with golden or brown hairs, hairs usually deciduous; awn 4–9 cm. Pedicelled spikelet 13–20 mm. Fl. and fr. Sep–Apr.

Mountain slopes, valley grasslands; 700–2000 m. Guangxi, Gui-zhou, Yunnan [Bangladesh, Bhutan, N India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam]. 

 Themeda arundinacea belongs to a group of giant Themeda species with stout, solid, reedlike culms and large, drooping panicles, also including T. caudata, T. intermedia, T. trichiata, and T. villosa. Most were treated in old literature at infraspecific rank under T. gigantea (Cavanilles) Hackel, which name is now applied only to a form endemic in the Philippines with awnless racemes of small, hairy spikelets. The species of this complex probably intergrade, and variation is not well understood.

Smaller forms of Themeda arundinacea with culms to 3 m tall, shorter spikelets, and shorter, weaker awns (3–4.5 cm) are sometimes separated as T. subsericans. 

Botanical Structure of the Tarlac Grass
Rodrigo M. Sicat, and Rodel T. Botio/Delfin J. Sibal 

  •  Indigenous Name: Tarlac Grass
  • Scientific Name: Themeda arundinacea (Roxb.) Ridl.
  • Spanish Name: Hierba Tarlaquena
  • Kapampangan Name: Dikut Tarlac Aboriginal Name: Tallak Ilocano Name: Tanglar; Tarlar Popular Name: Matarlac; Malatarlac

 Structure of the Plant

Stem. Selectively grows in colonies in usually moist to dry clay loam soils along high hills and flat hinterlands; annual (“annual” means once a year); as the plants burn or die during dry season (as a result of kaingin or eventual death), new shoots are enormously replaced at the onset of the rainy season. The grass shoots (plant or clone) grow from the center outward, develop new lateral shoots (tillers), and form into a ring of healthy plants. A ring produces 100-150 tillers. A young tiller is light green and becomes heavily green as its maturity stage progress. Each tiller has 8-10 pairs of sideward stems from base to apex. The sheaths of the stems are hallow or herbaceous and are sequentially woven and arranged in ascending order. The lower side sheaths of the base stems are light purple, hairy, shiny, smooth, and with parallel veins. Any of these tillers produces a sugarcane-like culm, which holds the spike. The cane-like stalk reaches 8-13 ft. tall (root base stem to spike’s apex). A grass colony bears 30-35 spikes. A spike has 12-18 nodes (joints), and every node is 0.75 cm.-4.0 cm. diameter. Internodes are 15 cm.-35 cm. apart. Fresh (green) nodes are succulent, sugarcane (sucrose aroma), and chewable. Old stalks become hard and woody. 

 Leaves. The blade (lamina) of the grass is linear, long, slender, sharp, and coarse. The sheath that enfolds the culms of the nodes is membrous or hairy. Each leaf has a long midrib that holds both the blade and sheath. The veins are parallel. The leaves reach a height of 170 cm.-225 cm. (from base to tip). Each mature plantlet produces 16-40 sheaths of leaves. A leaf measures 1.5 cm. (base), 1.6 cm. (middle), and 0.3 cm. (tip).

 During the plant’s peak of maturity, the leaves form a circular crown that makes the grass appear buoyant, showy, and majestic.

Roots. The tarmac grass [root] is fibrous. Each tiller develops an independent fibrous root system, which makes the grass colony stand firm and flexible. Roots can penetrate porous clay loam soils and develop roots as long as 30 cm.-50 cm.

 The young seeds of the grass develop primary or seminal roots. 

 Fruiting structures. The inflorescence of the grass is developed on the spike of the plant. The spike (from base stalk to tip) measures 8-13 feet. The spike contains spikelets that bear the florets (flowers). Each spike has 5-7 spikelets, which attach the flowers to the stem. The young flowers are light yellow green, smooth, and shiny. Eventually, the flowers become maple to deep brown when fully matured. The seeds are not macroscopic. Seed dispersal is either done through the wind, birds, insects, and man. Flowering period commences August and subsides in December.

When all the spikes of a solitary tarlac grass colony are in full bloom, the plant appears attractive and welcoming. From a distance, the grass florescence’s is noticeably peculiar and smart.


Uses. The leaves of the grass may be used as roofing materials in rustic places; flowers and spikes for handicrafts; and the roots are reportedly used for herbal or medicinal purposes (kidney treatment). Only very young stems and leaves of the grass are used for forage purposes (for cows and goats). 





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