Schoenoplectus subulatus (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Schoenoplectus subulatus (Vahl) Lye


Protologue: Enum. pl. 2: 268 (1805).
Family: Cyperaceae
Chromosome number: n = 39, 40, 42, 2n = 78

Synonyms

  • Scirpus subulatus Vahl (1805),
  • Scirpus litoralis Schrad. (1806),
  • Schoenoplectus litoralis (Schrad.) Palla (1888).

Vernacular names

  • Coast club-rush (En).
  • Scirpe du littoral (Fr).

Origin and geographic distribution

Schoenoplectus subulatus is distributed in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions from the Mediterranean region and Africa eastward through Asia to Australia and Micronesia. Its distribution in tropical Africa is unclear due to the taxonomic confusion concerning the species.

Uses

In Senegal the stems are used for thatching. In Ghana they are used for stuffing mattresses. Outside tropical Africa the stems are used for thatching in Oman and for making mats in Java.

In Oman roasted and peeled stem sections are eaten, or the outer skin is removed and the interior of the stem is eaten raw or boiled. In Egypt the plant is eaten by cattle only when nothing else is available, and in Oman the leaves are fed to cattle when fodder is scarce.

Description

Perennial, loosely tufted herb with a 2–3 mm thick rhizome; stem erect, stout, up to 100(–200) cm × 5(–10) mm, obtusely trigonal in cross-section, glabrous. Leaves often reduced to a sheath or with a short blade; sheath greyish or reddish; blade up to 30 cm × 2–4 mm, but often smaller or absent. Inflorescence a pseudolateral anthela 2–8 cm long, with 3–7 unequal ascending rays, terminated by 1–3 spikelets; largest involucral bract as long as inflorescence; bracteoles scale-like. Spikelets ellipsoid-ovoid, 5–15 mm long, reddish brown, many-flowered; glumes obovate-elliptical, 3–4 mm long; flowers bisexual, perianth consisting of 3–6 spathulate scales, stamens (2–)3, ovary superior and 1-locular, stigmas 2(–3). Fruit a broadly obovoid nutlet, biconvex, 1–2(–3) mm long, shiny brown-black.

Schoenoplectus is distributed in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions. In the past Schoenoplectus was a section of the very large and heterogeneous genus Scirpus. At present Scirpus sensu lato is usually split into smaller, more homogeneous genera and Schoenoplectus is one of those, although authors differ in opinion about its delimitation.

Some authors consider Schoenoplectus subulatus and Schoenoplectus litoralis to be separate species, whereas others consider them to be 1 species. Here, the latter view is followed. The 2 taxa are often combined into Schoenoplectus litoralis sensu lato, but this is not correct, as Scirpus subulatus was published earlier than Scirpus litoralis, and the epithet subulatus thus has priority.

A revision in southern Africa has led to the specimens formerly known as Schoenoplectus litoralis being classified into Schoenoplectus subulatus in Namibia and Schoenoplectus scirpoideus (Schrad.) Browning (synonyms: Scirpus pterolepis (Nees) Kunth, Schoenoplectus litoralis var. pterolepis (Nees) C.C.Towns.) in Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa. In East Africa specimens from Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania formerly included in Schoenoplectus subulatus are now included in Schoenoplectus scirpoideus. A revision of Schoenoplectus for other parts of Africa is badly needed.

Ecology

Schoenoplectus subulatus occurs in brackish swampy locations and in or near saline pools. In Ghana it grows in pure stands in brackish water near the coast. It is a weed in aquatic biotopes.

Management

Stems to be used for thatching in Senegal are cut at the base at the start of the dry season and dried in the sun.

Genetic resources

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

Prospects

The taxonomic situation of this taxon in tropical Africa is unclear and a revision would be very welcome.

Major references

  • Browning, J., Gordon-Gray, K.D. & Ward, C.J., 1994. Studies in Cyperaceae in southern Africa 23: a reassessment of Schoenoplectus litoralis, Sch. subulatus and Scirpus pterolepis. South African Journal of Botany 60(3): 169–174.
  • Hoenselaar, K., Verdcourt, B. & Beentje, H.J., 2010. Cyperaceae. In: Beentje, H.J. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 467 pp.
  • Jansen, P.C.M. & Brink, M., 2003. Schoenoplectus (Rchb.) Palla. In: Brink, M. & Escobin, R.P. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 17. Fibre plants. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 221–224.
  • 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

  • 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.
  • Bir, S.S., Cheema, P. & Sidhu, M., 1991. Cytological observations of Scirpus linn. from North India. Cytologia 56(4): 645–652.
  • 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.
  • Catarino, L., Duarte, M.C. & Diniz, M.A., 2001. Aquatic and wetland plants in Guinea-Bissau: an overview. Systematics and Geography of Plants 71(2): 197–208.
  • 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.
  • Müller, J.V., 2005. Ephemeral vegetation at shorelines of Sahelian seasonal lakes. Systematics and Geography of Plants 75: 239–257.
  • Roalson, E.H., 2008. A synopsis of chromosome number variation in the Cyperaceae. Botanical Review 74: 209–393.

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. Schoenoplectus subulatus (Vahl) Lye. [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 8 March 2020.