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a genus of perennial and annual grasses of the family Gramineae. The inflorescence is a spicate panicle. The spikelets have two flowers and are surrounded by pinnate or smooth bristles.
There are more than 100 species of Pennisetum, distributed in the tropical and subtropical zones, primarily in Africa. Some species are encountered in warm temperate regions. There are two species in the USSR: P. flaccidum, which is found in the Pamiro-Alai, and P. orientale, which grows in the Caucasus and the southern part of Middle Asia. Both species grow mainly on dry slopes.
Other species of Pennisetum include pearl millet (P. tuphoides, or P. spicatum), which is an important cereal and fodder plant, and P. purpureum, which is a perennial reaching 6 m in height. The latter species grows wild in tropical and southern Africa; it is cultivated in Africa, southern Asia, the Americas, and Australia. Its seeds and foliage are used to feed cattle, goats, sheep, and horses. The stems are used for building summer structures and for making paper.