Bulbostylis hispidula (PROTA)

From PlantUse English
Jump to: navigation, search
Prota logo orange.gif
Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

General importance Fairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg
Geographic coverage Africa Fairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svg
Geographic coverage World Fairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg
Medicinal Fairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg
Fibre Fairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg

Bulbostylis hispidula (Vahl) R.W.Haines

Protologue: Sedges & Rushes E. Afr., App. 3: 1 (1983)
Family: Cyperaceae
Chromosome number: n = 5


  • Scirpus hispidulus Vahl (1805),
  • Fimbristylis exilis (Kunth) Roem. & Schult. (1817),
  • Fimbristylis hispidula (Vahl) Kunth (1837),
  • Abildgaardia hispidula (Vahl) Lye (1974).

Vernacular names

  • Mshinda (Sw).

Origin and geographic distribution

Bulbostylis hispidula is very common in tropical Africa, rare in tropical America and very rare in South-East Asia.


Bulbostylis hispidula is sometimes used for making mats. It is recorded to be grazed a little by cattle in Senegal, but not by cattle and goats in Uganda. In Namibia the leaves are used as a sieve for straining marula (Sclerocarya birrea (A.Rich.) Hochst.) wine or beer. In traditional medicine in Benin a decoction of the whole plant is taken for the treatment of amoebic dysentery. The whole plant is burnt together with the leaves of Cordia africana Lam. to fumigate fingers affected by handling cotton thread. In Tanzania a leaf infusion is taken for the treatment of fractures.


The rhizome is fragrant.


Tufted herb, either annual or perennial with a woody rhizome; stems up to 50(–80) cm tall, c. 0.5(–1.5) mm in diameter, angular, hairy or glabrous. Leaves inserted at the base of the stem; sheath pale green, densely hairy to almost glabrous, with long hairs at the openings; ligule absent; blade filiform, usually less than 15 cm × 0.5 mm, frequently only 1–2 cm long, flat or channeled, usually hairy. Inflorescence a terminal, simple or compound, lax, umbel-like anthela of 1 sessile spikelet with 2 to many stalked spikelets or additional groups of sessile and stalked spikelets, rarely all spikelets almost sessile; involucral bracts usually shorter than inflorescence. Spikelets ovoid to elongate, 4–15 mm × 2–4 mm, 10–15-flowered; glumes imbricate, ovate-lanceolate, 2–5 mm long, margin and surface with minute hairs, pale to dark red-brown or almost black, often with paler margins and midvein; flowers bisexual, perianth absent, stamens 1–3, ovary superior, 1-locular, stigmas 3. Fruit an obovate nutlet 1–1.5 mm × c. 1 mm, obtusely 3-angled, with 5–10 rounded, transverse wrinkles on each side, angles smooth or papillate, pale grey to pale brown, 1-seeded.

In Senegal Bulbostylis hispidula flowers in ( May–)July–October(–November), and in Benin it flowers and fruits in April–November. Bulbostylis hispidula is an extremely variable species with at least 6 subspecies recognized in tropical Africa, but these are sometimes difficult to distinguish. Important diagnostic characters for the various subspecies are the annual or perennial character, the robustness of the culms, the length of the glumes and flowering parts, the shape and ornamentation of the nutlets, and the size and shape of surface cells of the fruit.

Bulbostylis comprises about 150 species and distributed throughout the tropics. Bulbostylis filamentosa (Vahl) C.B.Clarke (synonyms: Abildgaardia filamentosa (Vahl) Lye, Bulbostylis metralis Cherm.) is a perennial, tufted herb with a short rhizome and stems up to 100 cm tall, distributed throughout tropical Africa. In Ghana whole plants are used as brooms. Bulbostylis pilosa (Willd.) Cherm. (synonym: Abildgaardia pilosa (Willd.) Nees) is a perennial, tufted herb with a woody rhizome and stems up to 90 cm tall, widely distributed in tropical Africa. In Ghana stems and whole plants are used as brooms.


Bulbostylis hispidula occurs from sea-level up to 2050 m altitude in a large variety of habitats, including dry grassland, seasonally wet grassland and woodland, shrubland, forest openings, dry sandy locations, dunes, shallow soil on rocks, marshes and shores of lakes. It often occurs in fallows and other disturbed habitats, and is a weed of wet rice and upland crops.


Bulbostylis hispidula is collected from the wild.

Genetic resources

As Bulbostylis hispidula is widely distributed, very common, and growing in a wide range of habitats, it is not threatened with genetic erosion.


Bulbostylis hispidula is a widely distributed but little used species, which is unlikely to become more important in the future.

Major references

  • Burkill, H.M., 1985. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 1, Families A–D. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 960 pp.
  • Goetghebeur, P. & Coudijzer, J., 1985. Studies in Cyperaceae 5. The Genus Bulbostylis in Central Africa. Bulletin du Jardin Botanique National de Belgique 55( 1–2): 207–259.
  • Lye, K.A., 1997. Cyperaceae. In: Edwards, S., Mesfin Tadesse, Demissew Sebsebe & Hedberg, I. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Volume 6. Hydrocharitaceae to Arecaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 391–511.
  • Simpson, D.A. & Inglis, C.A., 2001. Cyperaceae of economic, ethnobotanical and horticultural importance: a checklist. Kew Bulletin 56(2): 257–360.
  • Vanden Berghen, C., 1988. Flore illustrée du Sénégal. Monocotylédones et Ptéridophytes. Volume 9. Monocotylédones: Agavacées à Orchidacées. Gouvernement du Sénégal, Ministère du Développement Rural et de l’Hydraulique, Direction des Eaux et Forêts, Dakar, Senegal. 522 pp.

Other references

  • Abbiw, D.K., 1990. Useful plants of Ghana: West African uses of wild and cultivated plants. Intermediate Technology Publications, London and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 337 pp.
  • Adjanohoun, E.J., Adjakidjè, V., Ahyi, M.R.A., Aké Assi, L., Akoègninou, A., d’Almeida, J., Apovo, F., Boukef, K., Chadare, M., Cusset, G., Dramane, K., Eyme, J., Gassita, J.N., Gbaguidi, N., Goudote, E., Guinko, S., Houngnon, P., Lo, I., Keita, A., Kiniffo, H.V., Kone-Bamba, D., Musampa Nseyya, A., Saadou, M., Sodogandji, T., De Souza, S., Tchabi, A., Zinsou Dossa, C. & Zohoun, T., 1989. Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques en République Populaire du Bénin. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 895 pp.
  • Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (Editors), 2006. Flore analytique du Bénin. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. 1034 pp.
  • Eastern Arc Mountains & Coastal Forests CEPF Plant Assessment Project Participants, 2006. Bulbostylis hispidula. In: IUCN. 2010 IUCN Red list of threatened species. Version 2010.4. [Internet] http://www.iucnredlist.org. May 2011.
  • Hoenselaar, K., Verdcourt, B. & Beentje, H., 2010. Cyperaceae. In: Beentje, H.J. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 466 pp.
  • Kern, J.H., 1974. Cyperaceae. In: van Steenis, C.G.G.J. (Editor): Flora Malesiana. Series 1, Vol. 7(3). Noordhoff International Publishing, Leiden, the Netherlands. pp. 435–753.
  • Lye, K.A., 1995. Cyperaceae. In: Thulin, M. (Editor). Flora of Somalia. Volume 4. Angiospermae (Hydrocharitaceae-Pandanaceae). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 98–147.
  • Lye, K.A., 1996. A new subspecies of Bulbostylis hispidula (Cyperaceae) from Somalia. Willdenowia 25(2): 595–600.
  • Roalson, E.H., 2008. A synopsis of chromosome number variation in the Cyperaceae. Botanical Review 74: 209–393.
  • SEPASAL, 1999. Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands. [Internet] Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. http://www.kew.org/ ceb/sepasal/. June 2011.


  • M. Brink, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Brink, M., 2011. Bulbostylis hispidula (Vahl) R.W.Haines. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <http://www.prota4u.org/search.asp>.

Accessed 18 November 2020.