One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A genus of chiefly tropical grasses including elephant grass and pearl millet, characterized by dense spikelike inflorescences bearing long, often feathery bristles; (also pennisetum) a grass of this genus.
Early 19th century; earliest use found in John Loudon (1783–1843), landscape gardener and horticultural writer. From scientific Latin Pennisetum, genus name from classical Latin penni-, combining form of penna feather + saeta, sēta bristle.
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