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.

Ethnobotany

Figure 1
Figure 1

Figure 2
Figure 2

Japan

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

Philippines

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).

Bioenergy

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

 

Category: 
Authors: 

Danielle Clark (Wilson) Assistant Scientist I

My role: Coordinate the research activities of the Crop Production & Physiology lab group. Provide research support and training to faculty, staff, and graduate students who require the use of the shared equipment and facili...

Emily Heaton Associate Professor of Agronomy

Agricultural landscapes face increasing pressure to provide the four F's: food, feed, fiber and fuel, while simultaneously maintaining the ecosystem functions that support life as we know it. Done prudently, dedicated biomass crops can provide feedstock for bioenergy and bioproducts while also en...