Fimbristylis umbellaris (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Fimbristylis umbellaris (Lamk) Vahl

Protologue: Enum. pl. 2: 291 (1806).
Family: Cyperaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 6


Scirpus umbellaris Lamk (March 1791), S. globulosus Retzius (July-Nov. 1791), Fimbristylis globulosa (Retzius) Kunth (1837).

Vernacular names

  • Globular fimbristylis (En)
  • Indonesia: mendong (Javanese), jukut bubu-ut (Sundanese), werot (North Sulawesi)
  • Malaysia: rumput sandang (Peninsular)
  • Philippines: tikog (Bisaya, Cebuano), badang-badang (Ilokano), anahiunan (Manobo, Cebuano)
  • Thailand: phrong klom noi (Trang)
  • Vietnam: cỏ quăm bông tròn.

Origin and geographic distribution

F. umbellaris originates from South-East Asia and is distributed from India and Sri Lanka through South-East Asia to China, Japan (Ryukyu Islands), Micronesia and Polynesia. In South-East Asia it occurs in Indo-China, Peninsular Malaysia, Indonesia (throughout), Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines (throughout) and New Guinea. It is cultivated in Peninsular Malaysia, Indonesia (West Sumatra, Java, North Sulawesi) and the Philippines.


The stems of F. umbellaris are widely used in South-East Asia for weaving, especially for the production of fine mats, hats and baskets. It is probably the most important matting sedge of the Philippines, where it is extensively used for making sleeping mats, floor mats, and to a lesser extent, hats, slippers, handbags, tobacco cases and cushions. In Leyte and Samar F. umbellaris weaving is an important alternative income source for farmers. In Indonesia the principal use is for sleeping mats, but it is also utilized for small wickerwork. The stems also serve as string for tying.

In the Philippines F. umbellaris is administered as a medicine to treat enlarged spleen. A weed in rice fields, it is ploughed in as green manure.

Production and international trade

In Tasikmalaya Regency, the centre of plaited handicraft industry in West Java, the total area under F. umbellaris cultivation in 1989 was 55 ha, with a total production of about 800 t. Local production supplied about 50% of the F. umbellaris material used, the rest was brought in from Central and East Java. Indonesia exports mats made from F. umbellaris , but trade statistics are not available. In the Philippines the production and local trade is concentrated in eastern Visayas and northern Mindanao, but production statistics are not available. In the Philippines F. umbellaris products are considered to have great export potential, but due to current limitations in the supply of raw materials, even local demand cannot be met.


Processed F. umbellaris stems are up to 4 mm wide, flat and supple, with an elastic feel and a light-grey to white colour. They are strong and durable and have good dye-absorbing characteristics, when properly harvested and processed. Stems of inferior quality lose their suppleness during processing, develop a red-brown coloured surface and are not suitable for weaving.


An erect, glabrous, perennial herb, up to 120 cm tall, with a short horizontal rhizome clothed with brown scales, growing densely tufted in a clump. Stem rigid, obtusely trigonous to subterete, 20-120(-200) cm × 1-5 mm (in cultivation reaching 2 m or taller), usually flattened below the inflorescence, striate, smooth, light green. Leaves on the stem reduced to bladeless, cylindrical, obliquely truncate sheaths with brown margins, lower ones scale-like, 2-4 cm long, the upper ones up to 20 cm long; leaves of sterile shoots narrow and short, flat or canaliculate, about 1.5 mm wide, without ligule. Inflorescence usually a much reduced simple or compound umbel or open corymb, up to 10 cm long, with up to 40 spikelets; basal involucral bracts 2-3, erect, lanceolate, up to 1 cm long; primary rays up to 10, unequal, up to 5 cm long, smooth; spikelets solitary, globose, ovoid or ellipsoid, 4-8(-12) mm × 3-4 mm, densely many-flowered, red-brown; rachilla persistent, narrowly winged; glumes spirally arranged and tightly imbricated, membranous, ovate, up to 2.5 mm × 1.5 mm, base obtuse, margins broadly white-membranous, apex rounded and often torn, obscurely 2-3-veined on both sides of the ridged midrib which ends below the apex; flowers bisexual; stamens 2-3, about 1 mm long, anthers oblong-linear; style 1-2 mm long, widened at the base, glabrous, usually trigonous with 3 stigmas, sometimes flat with only 2 stigmas, articulated with the ovary (falling off as a whole). Fruit nut-like, a compressed-trigonous or biconvex achene, 0.8-1 mm × 0.6-0.8 mm, finely warty, pale yellow when mature.

Growth and development

In Java F. umbellaris is established and starts tillering at 1-2 weeks after planting of a clump division. Tillering continues until the plants are 4-5 months old and have about 100-120 stems. The plants are normally harvestable at 3-6 months after planting, before flowering has started and may be harvested repeatedly. With good care, a crop may last up to 9 years. In Java F. umbellaris flowers year-round. Natural propagation is by the fruits, which are dispersed by water, birds and soil tillage. Fimbristylis Vahl has C4photosynthesis.

Other botanical information

F. umbellaris is often referred to as F. globulosa . However, the epithet umbellaris is correct because Scirpus umbellaris was described a few months earlier than S. globulosus . Plants with two stigmas have been considered as a different species (described as F. torresiana Gaudich. or F. utilis Elmer). However, they cannot be segregated satisfactorily from plants with three stigmas. The cultivated form is a stout cultivar with two stigmas. In Indonesia two forms have been distinguished, a fast-growing ("genjah") and a slow-growing ("dalam"). The stems of the former are shorter and narrower and said to be less durable. In Tasikmalaya Regency (West Java) the slow-growing form is mostly cultivated.


F. umbellaris grows well at an average temperature of 25-27°C with ample sunshine. It generally needs fertile soils with regular irrigation and grows well on soils rich in organic matter and on clay loams or sandy loams, with a pH of (4.5-)6-7(-8). It is sometimes grown in a "sawah" (irrigated rice field) which is less suitable for rice cultivation, but more often it is planted in naturally wet locations, which are terraced like sawahs. In Tasikmalaya Regency it is usually grown at 300-700 m altitude. F. umbellaris grows wild, frequently abundantly, in open, wet locations, such as swamps and grassland, usually at low altitudes, rarely up to 1000 m. In Indonesia F. umbellaris is considered a weed of minor importance in rice fields, where it can be controlled by chemical means.

Propagation and planting

F. umbellaris can be propagated by seed or vegetatively by clump division. Where it is cultivated, planting material is normally obtained by division. The plant spacing is 15-30 cm, depending on soil conditions. Dead or missing plants are replaced 1-3 weeks after planting. The field is prepared by hoeing or ploughing and harrowing and sometimes enriched with manure, after which it is levelled and divided into compartments to facilitate water management. Because it is grown in wet locations, F. umbellaris can be planted throughout the year. In the Philippines the onset of the rainy season is considered the ideal time for planting. Because of the rather intensive husbandry, planted F. umbellaris fields in Java are always close to the home. In West Java cultivation of F. umbellaris is sometimes combined with aquaculture, with the fish (carp and tilapia) usually fed rice bran. Here, the crop is planted at a spacing of 40 cm × 40 cm, and fish are released 3 days after planting. In natural stands in the Philippines the average density is about 150 000 clumps per ha, with each clump having up to 160 stems.


Regular weeding is necessary in young F. umbellaris plantings, but profusely tillering plants compete effectively with weeds.

In West Java, chemical fertilizers are applied: per ha 60-90 kg N, 30-40 kg P and 10-13 kg K, with the N application repeated after each harvest. In the crop-fish system in West Java, the fields receive about 100 kg/ha N in the first 2 months of each cropping cycle.

Old plantings must be thinned when the clumps become too big. In the Philippines overmature stems are removed to enhance sucker production.

Diseases and pests

In the Philippines the major pests of F. umbellaris are stem-borers, which feed inside the stems and cause yellowing of the plants, and the golden snail ("kuhol"). The stem-borers are checked by picking the larvae, whereas snails are controlled by draining the field and collecting the exposed snails and eggs. Insects found in a production and storage room in Tasikmalaya Regency (West Java) were Ahasverus advena (grain beetle) and Ectopsocus pumilis (both fungivorous), Cardiocondyla sp. and Xylocoris flavipes (predators), Lepisma saccharina (silverfish; xylophagous), and Minthea rugicollis (phytosaprophagous).


The first harvest of F. umbellaris takes place 3-6 months after planting, when the stems are still green. Overmature stems become hard and brittle when dry and are not suitable for weaving. Subsequent harvests are at 2-4 month intervals. For natural stands in the Philippines the recommended harvest level is 50% of the stems every 2-4 months.

In Indonesia the water is drained from the fields just before harvesting. The stems are cut with a knife or sickle. Only as many stems are harvested as can be processed in a day, since unprocessed stems become brittle when kept overnight. After the fields have been harvested, fertilizer is applied and 1-2 days later they are inundated again. After the final harvest the clumps are pulled out and those with thick stems and a well-developed root system are used for propagation. In the Philippines harvesting is done by pulling out the stems.


On fertile soils and with adequate husbandry the first harvest of F. umbellaris can yield 18 t/ha of fresh material or 6 t/ha of dry clean material. The average yield of fresh material in Tasikmalaya Regency in 1989 was 15 t/ha. From natural stands in the Philippines 20-25 million stems may be harvested per ha per year, whereas plantings with a spacing of 25 cm × 25 cm may yield 10 million stems per ha per year.

Handling after harvest

In Indonesia, the damaged, short and too old stems are removed from the harvested F. umbellaris material. The selected green stems are dried and bleached by spreading them in the sun and covering them with a thin layer of ash or sand. Good material turns light grey and remains shiny and supple. The dried material is washed and the stems are tied in bundles of about 450 stems, cut to an equal length of about 75 cm. In Blitar (East Java) the wet stems are rubbed with sand to remove the green colour and they are flattened with a pestle.

In the Philippines the harvested stems are bundled and dried in the sun for 3-5 days, until they become pliant and unbreakable. Stems not dried immediately after harvesting deteriorate in quality and colour. After drying, the stems are sorted and graded according to length (primary, longer than 2 m; secondary, 1-2 m long; and tertiary, less than 1 m) and diameter (small, less than 2 mm; medium, 2-3 mm; and large, over 3 mm). Stalks of similar length and diameter are tied into bundles of about 0.45 kg. Secondary stems are normally used for the larger "double-sized" mats and tertiary stems for the smaller "single-sized" or "baby" mats. Before weaving, the stems are usually dyed and flattened by pressing them against an instrument called "lag-ot". Weaving may be done manually or on a wooden handloom. Weaving should be done in the early morning or late afternoon, or on rainy days, because the stems become brittle and difficult to weave at low relative humidity. Woven mats may be embroidered, for instance with coloured leaves of Corypha utan Lamk.

Genetic resources and breeding

No germplasm collections or breeding programmes of F. umbellaris are known to exist.


The prospects for the production of F. umbellaris handicrafts for the tourist industry and for export are promising. However, local demand for F. umbellaris products may decrease as a result of the import of synthetic products. From an environmental point of view this substitution is undesirable.


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  • Heryadi, D.Y., 1998. Potensi dan prospek pengembangan tanaman mendong (Fimbristylis globulosa) di Kabupaten Tasikmalaya [Potential and prospect of mendong (Fimbristylis globulosa) development in Tasikmalaya Regency]. Faculty of Agriculture, Siliwangi University, Tasikmalaya, Indonesia. 10 pp.
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  • Kern, J.H., 1974. Cyperaceae. Fimbristylis. In: van Steenis, C.G.G.J. (Editor): Flora Malesiana. Series 1, Vol. 7(3). Noordhoff International Publishing, Leiden, the Netherlands. pp. 540-592. 6 Koyama, T., 1985. Cyperaceae. In: Dassanayake, M.D. & Fosberg, F.R. (Editors): A revised handbook to the flora of Ceylon. Vol. 5. Amerind Publishing Co., New Delhi, India. pp. 268-324. 7 The Tikog Production Committee, 1994. The Philippines recommends for tikog production. PCARRD Philippines Recommends Series No 78. PCARRD (Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development) & NRMP (Natural Resources Management Program), Los Baños, the Philippines. 45 pp.


U.A. Dasuki