Savanna and Tropical Grassland Plants

Written by will gish
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Savanna and Tropical Grassland Plants
Savannah grasslands grow in warm and often dry locations. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

"Savannah" is a confusing word. The word is generally associated with the large tropical grasslands of central African commonly referred to as The Savanna. Yet, technically, The Savanna is a savannah, or a tropical grassland. Thus, all tropical grasslands, from the Pampas of South America to the Terai-Duar grasslands of India, are savannahs. Not surprisingly, grass is the most common tropical grassland plant. Species are specific to the grassland region in which they grow.

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African Savanna

Africa's savannah is home to a large diversity of plant species. Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) grows throughout the African savannah in areas that are frequently disturbed by grazing, floods and fires. It is a source of food for a number of grazing animals of the savannah, such as zebras and gazelles. Elephant grass (Pennistum purpureum) is so named for its size. It reaches a mature height of 10 feet and grows in dense clumps along the banks of lakes and rivers. As for trees, many species of Acacia grow in the African savannah, including gum Arabic acacia (Acacia Senegal), whistling thorn (Acacia dreparalobium) and umbrella thorn acacia (Acacia tortilis). Other African savannah trees are jarrah, jackleberry, and eucalyptus.

Pampas Savanna

Pampas is a vast South American grassland centred in Argentina that spreads through Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil. The dominant plant species in the savannah is Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana), after which the region is named. Pampas grass reaches a mature height of eight to 12 feet and bears large pink flowers. It can grow in very dry regions on account of roots that dig deeply and tap into submerged water sources. The World Wildlife Foundation lists eight species of grass that grow commonly amid Pampas grass, including those of the geenra tipa, Piptochaetium, Aristida and Briza. Annuals of 10 genera, including Micropsis, Berroa, Gamochaeta and Chaptalia, grow in the Pampas, as do shrubs such as Margyricarpus, Heimi, and Baccharis.

Terai-Duar Savanna

Terai-Duar is a 13,400-square-mile region spread through Nepal, India and Bhutan that incorporates savannahs, subtropical grasslands and shrubland. The area begins at the base of the Himalayas and is only 15.5 miles wide, though it is very long. It is the tallest grassland in the world, as measured by the average height of its plants. Plant species in the region include wild sugarcane (Saccharum spontaneum), 10-foot tall tropical reeds (Phragmitis kharka) and silky kangaroo grass (Themeda villosa). Smaller species include cranberry grass (Imperata cylindrical) and sixweeks threeawn (Aristida adscensionis). Many of the grass species of Terai-Duar serve as fodder for wildlife, such as elephants and rhinoceroses, and as cover for predators, such as tigers.

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