Typha domingensis (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
Introduction
List of species


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Typha domingensis (Pers.) Steud.


Protologue: Nomencl. bot.: 860 (1824).
Family: Typhaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 30

Synonyms

  • Typha australis Schumach. (1827),
  • Typha javanica Schnizl. ex Rohrb. (1869),
  • Typha angustifolia auct. non L.

Vernacular names

  • Bulrush, cattail, Santo Domingo cattail, southern cattail, Indian reedmace (En).
  • Massette australe (Fr).

Origin and geographic distribution

Typha domingensis is distributed in the subtropical and tropical zones of the world. It is very widespread in tropical Africa. It occurs in several Indian Ocean islands where it possibly has been introduced.

Uses

The leaves are widely used in tropical Africa for making mats, hats and baskets. In Gabon they are used as ties in vegetable cultivation. They are recorded to be used for thatching in Ethiopia. The leaves are sometimes used for caulking barrels and to plug seams of canoes. They are also used as bedding for domestic animals and can be used for making paper. The stems are made into mats and fences. In Nigeria the stems are used for making house screens. In Kano State of Nigeria the stems were made into 1-person boats. The mature silky female florets are used for stuffing pillows.

In parts of DR Congo the stems and rhizomes are eaten throughout the year. In other countries, for instance Nigeria, the rhizome is eaten as a famine food. Immature leafy spikes are eaten as a vegetable and the soft core of these spikes is appreciated as a sweet snack. In Argentina the pollen is eaten. Typha domingensis is planted in basins for wastewater treatment in Tanzania, Kenya and in Australia and central and south America. In traditional medicine in Uganda the whole plant is burnt and the ash is licked to cure coughing. Elsewhere it is burnt to obtain salt for cooking or for making soap.

Production and international trade

Typha as a fibre plant is only collected from the wild. No production statistics are available.

Properties

The stems and leaves of Typha domingensis are tough and fibrous. The leaves are suitable for caulking, because they swell when wet. Paper made from Typha is fairly strong but difficult to bleach. The floss from the female part of the inflorescences has a high buoyancy and good insulating properties, both for heat and sound.

The rhizome contains starch and a toxic substance with purgative and emetic properties. Stems (moisture content 88%) from the Zambezian region contained per 100 g dry matter: energy 1253 kJ (299 kcal), protein 1.4 g, fat 0.5 g, carbohydrates 81.9 g, fibre 3.2 g, Ca 20 mg, P 30 mg and Fe 10 mg. The seeds contain a drying oil similar in quality to linseed oil. Aqueous extracts of Typha domingensis have shown phytotoxic properties, inhibiting the germination of lettuce and radish seeds and the growth of the water fern Salvinia minima Willd.

Adulterations and substitutes

A range of Cyperaceae and Pandanaceae may be used for weaving. For wastewater treatment the most frequently used plant around the globe is common reed (Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud.). Other Typha species and various Cyperaceae are also widely used.

Description

Perennial, monoecious, glabrous herb with long, creeping rhizomes; stem erect, up to 5 m tall, unbranched, solid. Leaves in two rows, mostly basal and sub-basal; sheath with sloping shoulders, purple spotted within; blade linear, flat, up to 1.5 m × 8–13 mm, narrow at the base, obtuse at the apex. Inflorescence a cylindrical spike, with the male part superposed on the female part, the two parts separated by a 1–3 cm long bare stalk, flowers numerous and closely packed; bract at base of each part leaf-like, caducous; male part 10–34(–40) cm × 1–1.5 cm, flowering earlier than female part; female part 10–25(–34) cm × 1.5–2 cm, bright reddish brown, rachis densely covered by wart-like, short excrescences bearing one to several fertile or sterile flowers with a narrow bracteole widened at the top into a short, flat blade. Flowers unisexual; male flowers with 2–3 flattened, forked or slenderly lobed bracts surrounding the stamens, filaments white, connate, anthers basifixed; female flowers with a fusiform ovary borne on a thin stalk surrounded by a whorl of hairs at the base, style distinct, short and thin, stigma flattened, linear to spatulate; sterile female flowers similar to fertile ones but with undeveloped ovary. Fruit a very small follicle, falling off before dehiscence together with its stalk, 1-seeded. Seed striate.

Other botanical information

Typha comprises (8–)15(–20) species, most of which are widely distributed throughout the temperate, subtropical and tropical zones of both hemispheres. The taxonomy is still not clear and identification of the taxonomical units often difficult. In tropical Africa 4 Typha species occur. Typha angustifolia L. is a species of temperate regions of Europe and America and has been recorded erroneously for Madagascar. Typha elephantina Roxb. is distributed in Asia, the Mediterranean, Senegal, the Sahel, Ethiopia and in oases in the Sahara. The leaves are used for making mats, clothes, ropes, windbreaks and shelters. Young roots and leaf-bases are eaten as a vegetable and plants are grazed by sheep, goats and cattle. In India it is planted to control erosion, the pollen is made into bread, and the rhizome is used for the treatment of ulcers, dysentery and gonorrhoea.

Growth and development

Typha seeds readily germinate in open wet areas, but mortality is high and few seedlings reach the reproductive stage. The seedlings can survive when submerged in water as well as when emerged. Once the plant is established, within a year after germination, rhizome growth starts and becomes the main mechanism maintaining a stand. Buds in 2 rows on each side of the rhizome apex may develop into new rhizomes or shoots. Typha species are perennials, with their rhizome enabling them to survive periods of cold and drought. Individual shoots do not live longer than 1 year. The pollen is transported by wind. On windy days cross-pollination may occur, but on calm days self-pollination is more likely. Estimates of the number of seeds per inflorescence are up to c. 680,000 and the number of seeds per m² has been estimated at 17 million for Typha domingensis. The fruits are easily transported by wind, with the hairs serving as parachutes. Within minutes of contact with water the follicular tissues saturate and split open, and the seed is released. Seeds remain viable for a long period if conditions are unfavourable for germination.

Ecology

Typha domingensis grows in marshy locations, in shallow pools and along the margins of often stagnant, fresh or brackish water, along irrigation channels and in rice fields. It is known to grow at a water depth of up to 2 m. In East Africa it is found from sea-level up to 1500(–2300) m altitude. At higher altitudes it is usually growing mixed with Typha latifolia L.

Typha species are often associated with disturbed, fertile environments. They grow on a variety of soil types, but are usually found on fine-textured organic muds and silts, which have a high nutrient content and water-retention capacity. They are considered moderately salt-tolerant, but growth is significantly reduced at salinities higher than 3–5 ppt (parts per thousand). Permanent salinities of 7 ppt or higher exceed the tolerance limit. The success in brackish environments seems to stem from their ability to grow rapidly when fresh water is available and to persist in a dormant state under saline conditions.

Typha species are often considered weeds. They are able to dominate vegetations, because their bulky rhizome and their tall, dense canopy give them a competitive advantage. The formation of monospecific stands is aided by a mat of dead material, which prevents the establishment of other species, but which also may prevent growth of Typha seedlings. Typha species readily colonize disturbed areas where water is available, and may block irrigation and drainage channels. They also increase water loss because of their high transpiration. In Australia Typha domingensis is considered a major aquatic weed. In tropical Africa the dense Typha swamps can harbour dormitories with hundred-thousands of red-billed quelea (Quelea quelea) and offer protection to malaria mosquito larvae.

Propagation and planting

Typha domingensis is propagated by rhizome division or seed. The 1000-seed weight is 0.02–0.03 g. Seeds do not germinate in the dark.

Management

Cultivation of Typha spp. is easy along the margins of natural or artificial pools. Where it is considered a weed, it may be controlled effectively by cutting or crushing below the water level or by spraying with glyphosate.

Yield

Typha domingensis is highly productive and in Cuba the aerial biomass production has been estimated at 13–15 t dry matter per ha per year.

Handling after harvest

The stems may be split before being woven. For pulping, the fibre can be chemically extracted from stems and leaves together by treatment with sodium hydroxide.

Genetic resources

In view of its wide distribution and occurrence in disturbed habitats Typha domingensis is not threatened with genetic erosion. No germplasm collections or breeding programmes of Typha species are known to exist.

Prospects

The importance of Typha domingensis as a source of weaving material will probably remain limited to local use. For the lowland tropics it has huge potential as a component of aquatic plant systems for the treatment of wastewater.

Major references

  • 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.
  • Morton, J.F., 1975. Cattails (Typha spp.): weed problem or potential crop. Economic Botany 29(1): 7–29.
  • Napper, D.M., 1971. Typhaceae. In: Milne-Redhead, E. & Polhill, R.M. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 5 pp.
  • Riedl, H., 2003. Typha L. In: Brink, M. & Escobin, R.P. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 17. Fibre plants. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 232–235.
  • Vymazal, J., 2011. Plants used in constructed wetlands with horizontal subsurface flow: a review. Hydrobiologia 672.

Other references

  • Abbiw, D.K., 1990. Useful plants of Ghana: West African uses of wild and cultivated plants. Intermediate Technology Publications, London and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 337 pp.
  • Abira, M.A., van Bruggen, J.J.A. & Denny, P., 2005. Potential of a tropical subsurface constructed wetland to remove phenol from pre-treated pulp and papermill wastewater. Water Science and Technology 51(9): 173–175.
  • Arenas, P. & Scarpa, G.F., 2003. The consumption of Typha domingensis Pers. (Typhaceae) pollen among the ethnic groups of the Gran Chaco, South America. Economic Botany 57(3): 181–188.
  • 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.
  • Catarino, L., 2002. Typhaceae. In: Martins, E.S., Diniz, M.A., Paiva, J., Gomes, I. & Gomes, S. (Editors). Flora de Cabo Verde: Plantas vasculares. No 101. Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical, Lisbon, Portugal & Instituto Nacional de Investigação e Desenvolvimento Agrário, Praia, Cape Verde. 7 pp.
  • 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.
  • Haule, A.T., Pratap, H.B., Katima, H.J.Y., Mbwette, T.S.A. & Njau, K., 2002. Nitrogen removal from domestic wastewater in subsurface flow constructed wetlands by indigenous macrophytes in the tropics. In: Proceedings of 8th International Conference on Wetland Systems for Water Pollution Control. University of Dar es Salaam and IWA, Arusha, Tanzania: 938–951.
  • Hickley, P. & Bailey, R.G., 1986. Fish communities in the perennial wetland of the Sudd, southern Sudan. Freshwater Biology 16(5): 695–709.
  • IPK, undated. Mansfeld’s world encyclopedia of agricultural and horticultural crops. [Internet] Leibnitz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK), Gatersleben, Germany. http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/ pls/htmldb_pgrc/ f?p=185:3:3414192713406228. August 2011.
  • Lye, K.A., 1997. Typhaceae. 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. 383–385.
  • Malaisse, F., 1997. Se nourir en fôret claire africaine. Approche écologique et nutritionelle. Les presses agronomiques de Gembloux, Gembloux, Belgium & CTA, Wageningen, Netherlands. 384 pp.
  • Malaisse, F. & Parent, G., 1985. Edible wild vegetable products in the Zambezian woodland area: a nutritional and ecological approach. Ecology of Food and Nutrition 18: 43–82.
  • Ozenda, P., 1977. Flore du Sahara. Deuxième édition. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, France. 622 pp.
  • Raponda-Walker, A. & Sillans, R., 1961. Les plantes utiles du Gabon. Paul Lechevalier, Paris, France. 614 pp.
  • Schatz, G., undated. Catalogue of the vascular plants of Madagascar. [Internet]. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, United States. http://www.tropicos.org/ Project/MADA. July 2011.
  • Tabuti, J.R.S., Lye, K.A. & Dhillion, S.S., 2003. Traditional herbal drugs of Bulamogi, Uganda: plants, use and administration. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 88: 19–44.

Sources of illustration

  • Riedl, H., 2003. Typha L. In: Brink, M. & Escobin, R.P. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 17. Fibre plants. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 232–235.

Author(s)

  • C.H. Bosch, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Bosch, C.H., 2011. Typha domingensis (Pers.) Steud. [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.