Saccharum versicolor Nees ex Steud.
Stout perennial with woody base; culms up to 2 m high. Leaf-blades up to 50 cm long, semicylindrical, 1-3 mm in diameter, rigid, flexuous, long attenuate at the tip. Panicle 13-20 cm long, the peduncle villous; racemes up to 8 cm long, borne directly on the axis of the panicle, internodes and pedicels hirsute with white silky hairs 4-6 mm long. Spikelets all alike, 5-8(-9) mm long, the callus bearded with silky hairs up to 8 or 9 mm long, but usually shorter than the spikelets and not concealing them; glumes equal, membranous, ciliate on the margins, glabrous on the back; lower lemma lanceolate, ciliate on the margins; upper lemma lanceolate, bifid at the tip with long narrow lobes or shortly 2-toothed, awned in the sinus with an awn 10-30 mm long.
Fl. & Fr. Per.: April-July.
Type locality: Nepal.
Distribution: Pakistan (Baluchistan, Punjab, N.W.F.P., Gilgit & Kashmir); Afghanistan to the western Himalayas.
Pilger’s type specimen of Saccharum macratherum is presumed to have been lost in the wartime destruction of the Berlin herbarium. Bor (in Grasses Burma Ceyl. Ind. Pak. 212. 1960) states that the species is common in the Astor-Gilgit region, but has seen only two specimens. One of these, Sultan Ahmad 25147 (K), collected in Gilgit, he selected as the neotype. The other, collected in Astor by I. I. Chaudhri is in fact a much closer match to Pilger’s original circumscription than is the neotype. A scatter diagram using spikelet length (excluding the awn) and awn length as the axes shows no segregation into clusters corresponding to Saccharum filifolium and Saccharum macratherum. According to Bor, Saccharum filifolium has spikelets 4-6 mm long (compared with 8-9 mm in Saccharum macratherum) and awns 10-20 mm long (compared with 30-40 mm long in Saccharum macratherum) but there seems little justification for maintaining Saccharum macratherum as a distinct species, at least on the basis of currently available material. Whether or not future collections will reveal any bimodal clustering in a scatter diagram remains to be seen, but for the present Saccharum macratherum must be regarded simply as an extreme form of Saccharum filifolium.