Ethnobotany of miscanthus & current uses

April 16, 2019 11:30 AM
Blog Post

Today, we will take a quick trip around the world to explore how other cultures have used miscanthus. East Asian cultures incorporated miscanthus into their everyday lives: paintings, toys, household items, rituals, and in some cases medicinal uses.


Figure 1
Figure 1

Figure 2
Figure 2


In Japan, miscanthus flowers are found in kimonos, textiles and paintings. The puff-like texture of the flowers make them suitable and appropriate for children’s dolls such as owls (Figure 1).  A more practical use is roof thatching with kaya, which could be a combination of miscanthus and zebra grass. A 15-centimeter thick roof would be sufficient to keep a household dry. The roof of a museum near Sendai, Japan (Figure 2) uses miscanthus grass, although this traditional method is not as common anymore.

Figure 3
Figure 3

Figure 4
Figure 4


In the Benguet province of the Philippines, Miscanthus x sinensis, locally known as Sapsap or Rono branch, is used as a mat when butchering pigs in rituals [1] The miscanthus leaves are bundled with banana leaves so the mat is thick enough to safely place a pig on the ground. A medicinal treatment for ulcers and loose bowels[2] can be made by boiling Miscanthus x floridulus leaves and consuming the resulting liquid. In the same region, knotting the leaves (Figure 3) and placing them in a field would bring a good harvest  [1].  Additionally, placing them at an entrance gate or home door would mean no entry. In the Ifugao province, miscanthus stems are bound and used as a mat for sacrificing chickens as part of the post-harvest celebration called “Punnuk” (Figure 4).


In contrast, the current demand for Miscanthus x giganteus in the United States focuses on bioenergy.  This species of Miscanthus is a non-invasive, perennial plant that is part of the portfolio of species/crops to support the energy sector. These crops (along with the widely popular switchgrass) provide a variety of ecosystem services that improve soil quality, water filtration, and wildlife cover. Blogs by ISU Biomass will expand on the uses of M. × giganteus in Iowa and research conducted by our team and collaborators.


[1] Balangcod T.D. Blangcod K.D. (2018) Plants and Culture: Plant utilization among the local communities in Kabayan, Benguet Province, Philippines. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge Vol 17(4), Oct. 2018. Pp 609-622.

[2] Balangcod T.D. Blangcod K.D. Ethnomedicinal Plants in Bayabas, Sablan, Benguet Province, Luzon, Philippines. Electronic Journal of Biology, 2015, Vol.11(3): 63-73



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