Lepironia articulata (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Lepironia articulata (Retz.) Domin


Protologue: Biblioth. Bot. 85: 486 (1915).
Family: Cyperaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 34

Synonyms

  • Restio articulatus Retz. (1786),
  • Lepironia mucronata Rich. (1805).

Vernacular names

  • Tube sedge, grey rush, cigar rush (En).

Origin and geographic distribution

Lepironia articulata occurs discontinuously from Madagascar through Sri Lanka, South-East and East Asia to Australia, the Caroline Islands, New Caledonia and Fiji. It is cultivated in Thailand, Sumatra, Borneo, India and China.

Uses

In Madagascar and elsewhere the stems are used for weaving hats, mats, baskets and sacks. In Borneo and South Sumatra strong and completely closed Lepironia articulata mats have been used as packing material for tobacco, rubber, kapok, cotton, cane sugar and other products, for drying paddy and for the transport of food products such as rice, salt and dried fish. In China Lepironia articulata is used for making sails for junks. In Australia the still fleshy, thickened rhizomes are eaten by aboriginals. It is an ornamental pond plant.

Properties

The stems of Lepironia articulata are very good weaving material, highly valued in Madagascar, because of its durability, suppleness and workability. In experiments the plant has shown potential for the phytoremediation of polluted water, especially as an accumulator of Pb.

Botany

Perennial herb, often growing in large clumps; rhizome woody, creeping horizontally a few cm below the mud surface, up to about 15 cm × 0.5–1 cm, fleshy at first but becoming woody, many-noded, internodes about 1 cm long, dark brown, covered with brown, ovate-acute, striate scales and bearing numerous stout roots; stems close together, arranged in a row along the rhizome, each one erect, slender, cylindrical, 0.5–2.5(–3.5) m long, 2–8 mm in diameter, smooth and hollow but transversely septate (clearly visible when dried), glaucous or grey-green, clothed at the base with about 3 sheaths and 4–5 scales. Leaves reduced to bladeless sheaths, 3–30 cm long, upper one longest, split on one side, margins overlapping, brownish or reddish. Inflorescence consisting of a single spike-like cluster, apparently lateral owing to the single, erect, culm-like, involucral bract 2–7 cm long which extends the stem, gradually acute at apex; spike-like cluster ovoid-ellipsoid, 1–4 cm × 0.5–1.5 cm, purplish-brown, many-flowered; rachis thick, spongy, conical, persistent, bearing spirally arranged, tightly and densely imbricated, red-brown glumes; glumes ovate to obovate-orbicular, 3–7 mm × 3–6 mm, coriaceous with cartilaginous margin, glabrous, caducous with the fruit, each subtending a bisexual flower cluster (cyme) except some empty lower ones; each cyme with a terminal pistillate flower and up to c. 15 small, hyaline scales, each subtending a single male flower but the upper few often empty, the lowest pair opposite, folded, lanceolate, 4–6 mm × 0.5 mm, ciliolate on the keel, the remaining ones fascicled, linear-oblanceolate, 4–6 mm × 0.3 mm, acute, flat and glabrous; male flowers with only one stamen, anther linear, 2–3 mm long, shortly apiculate; female flower consisting of a naked pistil, style continuous with the ovary and ending in 2 long stigmas, its slightly thickened base persistent in fruit as a short beak 0.5 mm long. Fruit a double achene-like, strongly flattened obovoid to subglobose nut 3–4 mm × 2–3 mm, longitudinally striate, brown, glabrous but margins scaberulous at the top.

Lepironia has often been considered a monotypic genus, with Lepironia articulata being the only species, but at present Lepironia and Chorizandra have been united into a larger genus Lepironia, with 1 species in subgenus Lepironia (characterized by an inflorescence consisting of one spike-like cluster and pistils with 2 stigmas), and 4 Australian species in subgenus Chorizandra (characterized by a head-like inflorescence with several spikes and pistils with 3 stigmas). Anatomically, Lepironia articulata can be distinguished from most other Cyperaceae by the stomata composed of 4 cells and the absence of silica bodies in the leaf epidermis cells.

Ecology

Lepironia articulata occurs in shallow water (usually less than 0.8 m deep) in open swampy locations, open marshes, swamps in savanna-forests and along quiet streams, often near the coast. It grows in oligotrophic, slightly acid (pH 5.0–6.5) water. It often forms extensive communities. It is a weed of rice fields in Malaysia.

Management

Lepironia articulata can be propagated by clump division. When harvesting the stems, cutting must preferably be done a few cm away from the rhizome because if the rhizome is damaged the plant will need more time to produce new stems. Total living biomass production (above and below ground) for Lepironia articulata in the Tasek Bera swamp in Peninsular Malaysia has been estimated at 2.2 g per m² per day. This is much lower than the biomass production of other tropical aquatic sedges, such as Cyperus papyrus L., which may be due to the low emergence rate of new stems in Lepironia articulata. In South-East Asia the harvested stems are dried for 3 days, after which they are tied into bundles 10 cm in diameter. These bundles are pounded with rice pestles until they are flat and ready for weaving.

Genetic resources

In view of its wide distribution area, Lepironia articulata does not seem to be threatened with extinction. No germplasm collections or breeding programmes are known to be underway.

Prospects

Lepironia articulata will remain a locally useful and readily available source of high-quality weaving material in Madagascar.

Major references

  • Boiteau, P., Boiteau, M. & Allorge-Boiteau, L., 1999. Dictionnaire des noms malgaches de végétaux. 4 Volumes + Index des noms scientifiques avec leurs équivalents malgaches. Editions Alzieu, Grenoble, France.
  • Brotonegoro, S., 2003. Lepironia articulata (Retz.) Domin. In: Brink, M. & Escobin, R.P. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 17. Fibre plants. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 170–172.
  • Decary, R., 1946. Plantes et animaux utiles de Madagascar. Annales du Musée Colonial de Marseille, 54e année, 6e série, 4e volume, 1er et dernier fascicule. 234 pp.
  • Ikusima, I., 1978. Primary production and population ecology of the aquatic sedge Lepironia articulata in a tropical swamp, Tasek Bera, Malaysia. Aquatic Botany 4: 269–280.

Other references

  • Bryson, C.T. & Carter, R., 2008. The significance of Cyperaceae as weeds. In: Naczi, F.C. & Ford, B.A. (Editors). Sedges: uses, diversity, and systematics of the Cyperaceae. Monographis in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden. Volume 108. pp. 15–101.
  • Dai, L.-K., Liang, S.-Y., Zhang, S., Tang, Y., Koyama, T., Tucker, G.C., Simpson, D.A., Noltie, H.J., Strong, M.T., Bruhl, J.J., Wilson, K.L. & Muasya, A.M. (Editors), 2010. Cyperaceae. [Internet] Flora of China, Science Press, Beijing, China and Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis MO, United States. 23: 164–461. http://www.efloras.org/ florataxon.aspx?flora_id=2&taxon_id=10246. June 2011.
  • 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. 592–661.
  • Missouri Botanical Garden, undated. VAST (VAScular Tropicos) nomenclatural database. [Internet] http://www.tropicos.org/. June 2011.
  • Rabarimanarivo, M., Jeannoda, V. & Rabakonandrianina, E., 2005. Etude des plantes artisanales de marécage du sud-est de Madagascar: etude écologique et socio-économique. Tohiravina 1: 30–37.
  • Uchiyama, H., Matoba, H., Aizawa, T., Sumida, H. & Do Minh Nhut, 2010. Chromosome counts of some wetland Cyperaceous species from the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. Cytologia 75(4): 335–339.
  • Wang, Q., Cui, Y. & Dong, Y., 2002. Phytoremediation of polluted waters: potentials and prospects of wetland plants. Acta Biotechnologica 22(1–2): 199–208.

Sources of illustration

  • Brotonegoro, S., 2003. Lepironia articulata (Retz.) Domin. In: Brink, M. & Escobin, R.P. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 17. Fibre plants. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 170–172.

Author(s)

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

Correct citation of this article

Brink, M., 2011. Lepironia articulata (Retz.) Domin. [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 14 November 2018.