Kyllinga vaginata (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

Kyllinga vaginata Lam.

Protologue: Tabl. Encycl. 1: 148 (1791). Encycl. 3(2): 366 (1792).
Family: Cyperaceae
Chromosome number: n = 9


  • Kyllinga peruviana Lam. (1792),
  • Cyperus peruvianus (Lam.) F.N.Williams (1907).

Vernacular names

  • Caribbean island spike sedge (En).

Origin and geographic distribution

Kyllinga vaginata is distributed in West and Central Africa. It also occurs in Central and South America.


In Senegal the plant is used for making mats. In Ghana it is used for stuffing mattresses. Outside Africa Kyllinga vaginata is planted as an ornamental.


Perennial, glabrous herb with a 5–15 cm long rhizome covered with pink or reddish brown scales; stems in a row, erect, up to 40(–60) cm tall, obtusely 3-angled in cross-section. Leaves usually reduced to a reddish sheath, rarely with a well-developed blade. Inflorescence a terminal, solitary, dense, spherical spike 8–12 mm in diameter, whitish, with many, tightly packed spikelets; bracts 3, 0.5–1(–2) cm long, usually reflexed. Spikelets ellipsoidal, 2.5–4 mm long, with 2 flowers of which 1 sterile; glumes linear-lanceolate, 2–3 mm long, keeled, subacute at the apex, greenish white; fertile flower bisexual, perianth absent, ovary superior, 1-locular, stigmas 2. Fruit an obovoid nutlet 1–1.5 mm long, laterally flattened, dark brown, 1-seeded.

In Senegal Kyllinga vaginata flowers in (May–)July–December(–January).

Kyllinga comprises c. 60 species, distributed in the tropical regions of the world. Kyllinga polyphylla Kunth (synonyms: Kyllinga elatior Kunth, Cyperus pinguis (C.B.Clarke) Mattf. & Kük.) is a perennial herb with stems up to 90 cm tall, distributed throughout tropical Africa. It is used for plaiting in Madagascar. A decoction of the aerial parts is taken in Madagascar for the treatment of fever.


Kyllinga vaginata is a slightly halophilous species occurring on coastal sands, in moist or inundated depressions in coastal dunes, tidal swamps, pools with brackish water, and fringes of mangroves, sometimes in populations of several square metres.


The 1000-seed weight is 0.19 g.

Genetic resources

In view of its wide distribution Kyllinga vaginata seems not liable to genetic erosion.


Kyllinga vaginata is only occasionally used for plaiting and stuffing, and its importance is unlikely to increase.

Major references

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Burkill, H.M., 2000. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 5, Families S–Z, Addenda. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 686 pp.
  • 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

  • Clarke, C.B., 1901–1902. Cyperaceae. In: Thiselton-Dyer, W.T. (Editor). Flora of tropical Africa. Volume 8. Lovell Reeve & Co., London, United Kingdom. pp. 266–524.
  • 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.
  • Hooper, S.S. & Napper, D.M., 1972. Cyperaceae. In: Hepper, F.N. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 3. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 278–348.
  • 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.
  • Nelmes, E. & Baldwin, J.T. Jr., 1952. Cyperaceae in Liberia. American Journal of Botany 39(6): 368–393.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Roalson, E.H., 2008. A synopsis of chromosome number variation in the Cyperaceae. Botanical Review 74: 209–393.
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, 2008. Seed Information Database (SID). Version 7.1. [Internet] sid/. June 2011.
  • Scholz, H. & Scholz, U., 1983. Flore descriptive des Cypéracées et Graminées du Togo. J. Cramer, Vaduz, Liechtenstein. 360 pp.


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

Correct citation of this article

Brink, M., 2011. Kyllinga vaginata Lam. [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. <>.

Accessed 7 March 2020.