Word of the Week (153): ZACATON (probability 19277), by David Sutton

ZACATON (or SACATON) is a type of coarse perennial grass growing in alkaline regions of the southern US.

Let's look at a few other tropical or semi-tropical grasses. VETIVER is an East Indian grass with fragrant roots much used for making mats and screens; it is also known as CUSCUS, though confusingly CUSCUS is also used for the grain of the African millet, better known in the spelling COUSCOUS, a fairly unappetising stuff served at trendy dinner-parties, and still more confusingly CUSCUS can also refer to an arboreal phalanger of the Malay peninsula with thick fur and a long tail, which is unlikely to be served at dinner parties, however trendy, unless some hostess gets seriously confused.

ZOYSIA is a genus of creeping grasses native to southeast and east Asia. ALANG (or LALANG) is a coarse grass of the Malay peninsula. DOOB is a Hindi name for dog's tooth grass, used as fodder for cattle, and Hindi also gives us RUSA (or ROOSA), a kind of grass from which an aromatic oil is distilled.

KIKUYU is a kind of African grass, as is BUFFEL grass. Turning to the southern United States and Mexico, we have the perennial grass MUHLY, taking its name from American amateur botanist Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg, and from the Spanish the pasture grass GAMA (or GRAMA or GRAMMA), and GALLETA. And finally the Nahuatl language gives us SACAHUISTA (or SACAHUISTE), a kind of bear grass. I don't know what the connection is between bears and grass, but anyway it is to be avoided, as it may cause poisoning in livestock, and actually on further investigation I find that bear grasses are not grasses at all but members of the lily family. But plants called grasses that aren't grasses is a whole other story.


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