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Cyperus papyrus - L.

Common Name Papyrus. Papyrus sedge
Family Cyperaceae
USDA hardiness 9-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Often forms vast stands in swamps, shallow lakes, and along stream banks throughout Africa. It is considered a weed in the Sudan, Dahomey and Egypt[269 ].
Range Tropical Africa and Madagascar.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Wet Soil Water Plants Full sun
Cyperus papyrus Papyrus. Papyrus sedge

Cyperus papyrus Papyrus. Papyrus sedge
wikimedia.org tato grasso


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Cyperus papyrus is an evergreen Perennial growing to 5 m (16ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers wet soil and can grow in water.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Chlorocyperus papyrus (L.) Rikli Cyperus antiquorum (Willd.) Chiov. Cyperus elapses Chiov. Cyperus imerinensis Boeckeler Cyperus madagascariensis (Willd.) Roem. & Schult. Cyperus nyassicus Chiov. Cyperus panormitanus Chiov. Cyperus papyraceus Crantz Cyperus siculus Chiov. Cyperus syriacus Parl. Cyperus ugandensis Chiov. Cyperus zairensis Chiov. Papyrus antiquorum Willd. Papyrus domesticus Poir. Papyrus madagascariensis Willd. Papyrus mossambicensis Parl. Papyrus siculus Parl.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Root  Stem
Edible Uses:

The pith of the stem was recommended for food in ancient Egypt[269 ]. Rhizomes and lowermost parts of the stems - raw or cooked[269 ]. They can also be chewed, sucked, and spat out, much as sugar cane is done[269 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Papyrus had a number of medicinal applications in the past, though it is little, if at all, used nowadays[269 ]. The pith was recommended for widening and drying of fistula[269 ]. The main use seems to have been confined to burnt papyrus sheets, the ash of which was reputed to have the action of pulverised charcoal and was used in the treatment of certain eye diseases[269 ]. The ash was also said to check malignant ulcers from spreading in the mouth or elsewhere[269 ]. It was also said that, if macerated in vinegar and then burnt, the ash would heal wounds[269 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

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Other Uses

The fibrous pith of the stems has been utilized for making paper[302 ]. For making paper, the fibrous covering is stripped off the stem and the inner pith is split into wafer-like strips. These strips are then laid side by side, with others placed crosswise on top; the strips are dampened then pressed so that their glue-like sap cements them together. They are then dried into a sheet[269 ].. The plant was also traditionally used to make formal bouquets funeral garlands, boats, cordage, fans, sandals, matting, corkage, boxes, and paper[269 ]. Papyrus stems can be used for caulking seams in wooden ships[269 ]. Papyrus mats are used for making fences and huts[269 ]. The rhizomes are cut into sections and used as beads[520 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Historic Crop  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Management: Hay  Regional Crop

A plant of the subtropics to the tropics. It can tolerate a mean annual precipitation in the range 100 - 4,200mm, and a mean annual temperatures of 20 - 30?c[269 ]. Succeeds in full sun and in partial shade[200 , 302 , 352 ]. Prefers a fertile, wet soil, or shallow water up to 30cm deep[200 , 302 ]. The plant can tolerate a pH in the range 6.0 - 8.5[269 ]. Plants can spread rapidly by means of their rhizomes[302 ]. Many African swamps are dominated by papyrus thickets, which totally block navigation. It is estimated that the swamp areas of the White Nile, and the 'Papyrus Swamps' around Lake Kioga and Victoria are responsible for the loss of 50% of that river's water through evaporation and plant transpiration[269 ]. Plants can flower throughout the year[269 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Historic Crop  These crops were once cultivated but have been abandoned. The reasons for abandonment may include colonization, genocide, market pressures, the arrival of superior crops from elsewhere, and so forth.
  • Industrial Crop: Biomass  Three broad categories: bamboos, resprouting woody plants, and giant grasses. uses include: protein, materials (paper, building materials, fibers, biochar etc.), chemicals (biobased chemicals), energy - biofuels
  • Management: Hay  Cut to the ground and harvested annually. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

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Plant Propagation

Seed - Division.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Paper-rush, Paper-reed, Papirus, Uloko, Umufuunzo, Papyrus sedge, Indian matting plant, Nile grass

Africa, Asia, Australia, Benin, Botswana, Central Africa, Central America, Chad, Congo R, Costa Rica, C?te d'Ivoire, East Africa, Egypt*, Fiji, Gabon, Greece, Guinea, Guin?e, Hawaii, Indochina, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Laos, Liberia, Madagascar, Mediterranean, Middle East, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nigeria, North Africa, Oman, Pacific, Palestine, Rwanda, SE Asia, Senegal, South Africa, Southern Africa, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Uganda, USA, West Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Considered a weed in the Sudan, Dahomey and Egypt[269 ].

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Status: Least Concern

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Cyperus aristatusBearded nutsedgePerennial1.5 7-10  LMNMWe202
Cyperus articulatusJointed flatsedge, Priprioca, PiripiriPerennial1.8 10-12 FLMHNMWeWa142
Cyperus cephalotesBhada, Flat Sedges, Nut Sedges or Umbrella Sedge.Perennial0.3 10-12 FLMHNWeWa012
Cyperus distansSlender Cyperus, Piedmont flatsedgePerennial0.5 0-0  LMNMWe112
Cyperus esculentusTiger Nut, Yellow nutsedge, Nut GrassPerennial0.9 8-10 FLMHNMWe423
Cyperus fendlerianusFendler's FlatsedgePerennial1.5 -  LMNMWe202
Cyperus giganteusPiripiri, Mexican PapyrusPerennial1.5 9-11 FLMHNWeWa023
Cyperus longusGalingalePerennial1.2 6-9 FLMHNMWeWa213
Cyperus rotundusNut GrassPerennial0.6 0-0  LMNMWe332
Cyperus schweinitziiFlatsedge, Schweinitz's flatsedgePerennial0.8 0-0  LMNMWe202
Cyperus setigerusLean flatsedgePerennial1.0 0-0  LMNMWe202
Cyperus tegetiformis Perennial0.0 -  LMNMWe002
Cyperus textilisFlat sedge, Basket grass,Perennial1.5 9-12 FLMHFSNMWeWa004
Cyperus ustulatus Perennial1.2 -  LMNMWe002

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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