Cyperus latifolius (PROTA)
|Geographic coverage Africa|
|Geographic coverage World|
|Dye / tannin|
Cyperus latifolius Poir.
- Protologue: Encycl. 7: 268 (1806).
- Family: Cyperaceae
- Cyperus herana Cherm. (1919).
- Epiphytic flatsedge (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Cyperus latifolius is widely distributed in tropical Africa, including Madagascar, and also occurs in South Africa and Swaziland. It is occasionally cultivated, for instance in Uganda and South Africa.
The stems are widely used for thatching, for instance in Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Madagascar. In Kenya and Tanzania they are made into spirit houses. In Uganda the leaves are woven into mats. In Madagascar the leaves are used for weaving baskets, mats, hats and other products, and as cords. In South Africa and Swaziland the leaves are made into sleeping mats and a range of other plaited items, such as table mats, blinds, conference bags and folders.
Cyperus latifolius is one of the species planted in a wetland near Nairobi (Kenya), constructed to treat waste water. In Madagascar unspecified pant parts are used in the preparations of a black dye. In traditional medicine Uganda the root is used in the treatment of tuberculosis and related ailments.
Air-dried material (moisture content 22%) used in pulping experiments in Kenya contained 16.4% lignin and 5.7% ash. After pulping with the soda process, a yield of 45% was obtained. The fibres in the unbleached and unbeaten pulp were on average 0.9 mm long and 18 μm wide. The resulting paper had good tensile, burst, fold and tear properties.
Perennial, robust herb up to 200 cm tall with 1–3 mm thick stolons covered with blackish scales; stems up to 160 cm tall, 3–8 mm wide, sharply 3-angled, usually slightly scabrid below the inflorescence, the basal part covered by leaf sheaths. Leaves in 3 vertical ranks; sheath slightly fleshy below, green to reddish brown, lowest sheaths bladeless and almost black; ligule absent; blade 40–260 cm × 8–30 mm, acute to acuminate at the apex, flat or v-shaped, glabrous or with scabrid margin and midvein. Inflorescence a large, terminal anthela 7–35 cm × 6–40 cm, consisting of 5–10 major branches, each with a usually 3-angled group of spikes; major involucral bracts leaf-like, usually spreading, up to 90 cm × 2 cm; major peduncles up to 35 cm long, somewhat flattened; spikes 10–40 cm × 10–40 cm, each with 5–20 spreading spikelets, rachis minutely hairy. Spikelets linear, 5–30 mm × 1–2(–3) mm, pale to dark red-brown, 5–30-flowered; glumes distichous, oblong-elliptical, 1.5–3 mm long, rounded at the apex, straw-coloured to pale or dark red-brown, with a green midvein and a colourless margin; flowers bisexual, perianth absent, stamens 3, ovary superior, 1-locular, stigmas 3. Fruit an obovoid nutlet up to 1.5 mm × 1 mm, 3-angled, papillose, pale brown when young, dark brown or grey when mature, 1-seeded.
Cyperus latifolius follows the C4-cycle photosynthetic pathway. In a pure stand near Nairobi the aerial biomass was 2170 g/m². The canopy, with a Leaf Area Index of 15.3, intercepted more than 95% of the photosynthetically active radiation.
Cyperus comprises c. 550 species, mainly in the tropics and subtropics, and many of these are used for thatching and weaving.
Cyperus baronii C.B.Clarke is a herb with stems up to 90 cm tall, widely distributed in tropical Africa. In Madagascar its stems are used for weaving baskets, after the pith has been removed.
Cyperus grandis K.Schum., a perennial herb up to 200 cm tall only occurring in Kenya and Tanzania is recorded to be used for thatching in Tanzania.
Cyperus maranguensis K.Schum., a perennial herb up to 125 cm tall, distributed in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, is used in basketry.
Cyperus marginatus Thunb. is a perennial herb up to 150 cm tall, distributed in Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho, and also recorded from Kenya. In Namibia the stems are used for thatching and for mat making. They have also been used for making baskets. The plant is grazed by livestock. In Namibia warmed portions of the root are placed as a poultice around the throat of someone with a sore throat or mumps. The plant is considered an indicator of the presence of water close to the soil surface. It is traded as an ornamental pond plant in South Africa.
Cyperus natalensis Hochst. ex C.Krauss (‘giant dune sedge’) is a perennial herb up to 130 cm tall, with leaf blades absent or up 10 mm long. It occurs in Mozambique and South Africa. The stems are woven into mats and other articles. It is sometimes grown as an ornamental plant.
Cyperus pangorei Rottb. is a perennial herb with stems up to 200 cm tall, distributed in South Asia and China. It has been cultivated in Mauritius, where it has been used for making mats and baskets. In Asia the stems are much used for weaving. The fibre cells in stems from India were on average 0.65–0.8 mm long and 9.4–9.9 μm wide. Processed stem strands obtained from mat weavers in Pathamadai (India) contained 83% holocellulose, 42% α-cellulose, 41% hemicellulose, 13% lignin and 1.7% waxes. Cyperus pangorei is a weed in rice fields.
Cyperus pectinatus Vahl (synonym: Cyperus nudicaulis Poir.) is a perennial herb with stems up to 120 cm tall and leaves without blades. It is widely distributed throughout tropical Africa, including Madagascar, and also occurs in South Africa and Swaziland. In Madagascar the stems are used for weaving hats, mats, baskets and boxes.
Cyperus procerus Rottb. (synonym: Cyperus straminicolor Cherm.), a perennial, stoloniferous herb up to 135 cm tall, is distributed in tropical Africa, tropical Asia and Australia. In Madagascar it is used for plaiting. In India the stems are used for making mats, and in Java they are used as string. Cyperus procerus is a weed in rice fields in Africa and Asia.
A range of Cyperus species endemic to Madagascar are used for plaiting. These include Cyperus debilissimus Baker, Cyperus heterocladus Baker, Cyperus mangorensis Cherm. (synonym: Cyperus volodioides Cherm.), Cyperus nemoralis Cherm. (synonym: Cyperus onivensis Cherm.), Cyperus plantaginifolius Cherm., Cyperus volodia Cherm. and Cyperus xerophilus Cherm. Cyperus balfouri C.B. Clarke (synonym: Cyperus confusus Cherm.), distributed in the Comoros, Mayotte, Madagascar and Réunion, is also used for weaving in Madagascar.
Cyperus latifolius occurs from sea-level up to 2100 m altitude in swampy locations, often on the drier margins of Cyperus papyrus L. swamps, in ditches along roads, and along streams. It is a weed in rice fields and pasture land.
In Uganda Cyperus latifolius is sometimes cultivated as a source of weaving material. In South Africa it has been planted in paddy fields to obtain material for weaving. In Madagascar weaving material is harvested year-round. When stems have been cut for the first time, the new leaves are finer than the original ones. The 1000-seed weight is 0.13–0.21 g.
Cyperus latifolius is widely distributed and common, even occurring as a weed, and is not threatened with genetic erosion, although it may suffer from general degradation of wetlands due to drainage and infilling for cultivation and construction.
Cyperus latifolius is a valued and widely used local source of material for weaving and thatching, sometimes even cultivated. It may have potential for the production of paper.
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- M. Brink, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Correct citation of this article
Brink, M., 2011. Cyperus latifolius Poir. [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 6 March 2020.
- See the Prota4U database.