‘Leopard claw’ grass for catching rats and mice
Common names Nkansu ngo (= claw of the leopard), Leopard claw grass, nzefo za ngo, kansingo (Kongo)
A perennial grass with culms 30 – 150 cm high, growing from scaly rhizomes. Leaf blades are spear shaped, 10 – 40 cm long and 1 – 3.6 cm wide. Flower spike is up to 20 cm long with dark green to brown, overlapping spikelets, 20 – 30 mm long, bearing strongly barbed awns up to 25 mm long.
Present in the ground layer of forest. Found from Senegal to Bioko and across tropical Africa and also in India and Sri Lanka. Sometimes found in shaded crop land. A noxious weed, particularly when fruiting, as the awns catch in clothing and hairy legs, and on animal fur where they are difficult and painful to remove.
Commonly used to catch mice and rats. The flower stalks are rolled up together and stuffed down their holes.
The seeds form balls which cling strongly to clothing. Birds caught in these balls are unable to extricate themselves and often die.
Gillet & Paque 1910, Renier 1948, Daeleman & Pauwels 1983, Burkill 1994