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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Setaria italica (Foxtail millet)

boermanna, mannakoering, giers [Afrikaans]; lebelebele [Sotho]

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Poales > Family: Poaceae

Setaria italica was domesticated from the wild Setaria viridis in East Asia more than 7000 years ago, during the Neolithic period. The earliest records of seeds in archaeological sites come from northern China, dating to the 6th millenium BC and during this period (the Neolithic) Foxtail millet was the main crop in this region.

Foxtail millet is nowadays a minor crop in SE Europe, parts of Asia (especially India, China and Japan) and North Africa. In southern Africa it is grown to a minor extent for human consumption, and on the Springbok Flats it is grown commercially for producing bird seed. Different cultivars can have different coloured seeds: white, yellow and red.

In southern Africa it has also become naturalised.


  • van Wyk, B.-E. & Gericke, N. 2000. People's Plants. A Guide to Useful Plants of Southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.  

  • Zohary, D. & Hopf, M. 1993. Domestication of plants in the old World - The origin and spread of cultivated plants in West Asia, Europe, and the Nile Valley. Clarendon Press, Oxford.