Grasses belong to the plant Family Poaceae (Gramineae), which falls under the Class Liliopsida (the Monocotyledonae). The Poaceae (Gramineae) is one of the largest plant families in the world with over 10 000 species world-wide. Of this number, just under 1000 species have been described from Southern Africa, of which just over 300 are endemic to the region and just over 100 introduced.
Grasses are characterised by 'nodes' along the stem - or jointed stems - as opposed to 'sedges' which have stems with no joints and which belong to another family.
The 'reeds' one cuts for 'lapas' and other building jobs have nodes and therefore belong to the grass family while the 'reeds' cut for weaving into bed-mats have stems without joints. For proper identification, the botanical names of grasses should be used as common names can be very misleading.
All grasses belong to the classification known as Monocotyledons, as opposed to Dicotyledons. All Monocots (for short) grow from seed with only one leaf shoot, while Dicots grow from seed with two leaf shoots - as in a bean sprout. The importance of remembering this is that Monocots grow from the base of the stem whereas Dicots grow from the upper or outer tips of the stem and branches. All grasses therefore grow from the base of the stem and leaves.
Uses to Mankind:
The Grass Family contains many useful plants such as sorghum, maize, rice, millet etc, as well as large plants such as 'bamboo'.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the bulk of the world's food supply comes from this family of plants.
Meat comes from stock that have fed on grasses.
Eggs come from poultry that have fed on grain that comes from 'grass'.
Butter and cheese comes from milk which comes from stock that has fed on grass, or grain from 'grass'.
Sugar comes from 'cane' which is a grass. There is hardly any organic food item that doesn't originate from plants, with by far the greatest bulk of it originating from grass.
Common Grasses of Southern African Countries
Southern African Grass Species Checklist : Poaceae : Gramineae
Southern African Grasslands
African Savannah Biome
Grassland Ecology Management in Southern Africa