Kans grass/ Kash phool (Saccharum spontaneum) is a deep-rooted, coarse and erect perennial grass of South Asia that colonizes the monsoon flood plains of the Terai-Bhabar belt (in the foothills of the Shivalik hills) after the rains and forms thick pure stands in the area. It grows to a height of about 3 metres and blooms during autumn. It is extensively used for thatching roofs and building garden fences.
The grass was once considered a weed that infested millions of acres of cultivable land in Central India. India took a loan of 7 million dollars from World Bank in 1949 to buy 200 heavy-duty tractors for removing the grass by deep-ploughing the affected areas to remove the roots and rhizomes.
The flower of the kans grass is conspicuous fluffy white and from a distance a landscape with kans grassfields can appear to have been draped in white. The pannicles are white, upright, 6″ to 12″ long with twisted slender branches and are covered with copious white silky hair.
Large stands of the kans grass can be spotted in the Morni foothills along the seasonal nadis and choes. The deep roots of the grass play a role in stabilizing the stream banks and saving them from erosion.
The roots and leaves are used indifferent formulations of traditional medicines as diuretics, anti-pyretics, to treat sexual problems, mental illness etc
R. C. Temple while translating the bardic accounts of the battles of the Chandel Rajput King Parmal of Mahoba with the legendary Prithvi Raj Chauhan in the ‘Legends of Punjab’ recounts an episode where Prithvi Raj sets up camp near Saresma fort in Sambhalpur, Muradabad with an army of 100,000 to wage war against Malkhan, a Chandel Rajput chief of Mahoba. Malkhan’s wife Gajmodhni while surveying the landscape from the palace roof, spots the enemy tents and mistakes them for the fleecy white clouds of the kans flower :
‘ The Rani stood on the palace (roof) and gazed around her;
She stood like a partridge (‘chakor’) gazing at the moon,
(And said): “Has a washerman brought his clothes to the forest!
Or is the kans grass flowering?”
It is an illusion (made) of God!
- The Rotarian Jan 1955
- Legends of Punjab (Volume 3), R.C. Temple (1900)