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Cyperus exaltatus Retz. 1788
pronounced: sy-PEE-rus ex-al-TAH-tuss
(Cyperaceae – the papyrus family)
common names: Tall Flatsedge, Giant Sedge
Cyperus is from the Greek κυπειρος (kypeiros), a sweet-smelling marsh plant; exaltatus is Latin for very tall.
This is a widespread and robust tussock-forming sedge growing in all Australian states in the shallows of streams and lagoons. It also grows in tropical Africa, and in east Asia from China and India through to New Guinea. It is found growing in full sun to 50% shade in water up to about 50 cm deep from the coast to inland areas. It will tolerate both inundation and frost.
The leaves have a purplish brown sheath at the base, about as long as the flowering stems or longer. They are 3-15 mm wide, flat, with rough edges.
The spikelets are 4-18 mm long, 1-2 mm wide, yellow to brown, with no petals, in open umbels subtended by 3-6 leaflike bracts at the tops of the flowering stems. Each ray of the umbel is composed of spikelets arranged in spikes. There are 5-10 primary branches. There are 3 stamens, and the style is trifid.
The plant is recommended for erosion control on dam and creek banks, and provides a good bird habitat.
In parts of Asia the plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine, and a source of material for making mats, thatch and the like. The plant is also burnt to make a vegetable salt. The rhizome is grated and eaten. The grated material is also used to make a poultice that is applied to whitlows and other infections in order to draw the pus. Combined with the stem of sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum), it is applied to swollen breasts in order to promote milk flow.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographed in Nelly Bay 2010, 2013
Page last updated 29th December 2017