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Eleocharis dulcis - (Burm.f.)Trin. ex Hensch.

Common Name Chinese Water Chestnut
Family Cyperaceae
USDA hardiness 9-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Marshy land and shallow water[200]. The edges of seasonal swamps in Australia[193].
Range Tropical Africa; E. Asia - China, Japan, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, New Guinea, Australia, western Pacific..
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Wet Soil Water Plants Full sun
Eleocharis dulcis Chinese Water Chestnut

Eleocharis dulcis Chinese Water Chestnut


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Eleocharis dulcis is a PERENNIAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 9 and is frost tender. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
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


E. dulcis. Heliocharis tuberosa.

Plant Habitats

 Pond; Bog Garden;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Root
Edible Uses: Salt  Salt

Corm - raw or cooked[2, 46, 61, 63, 103]. A delicious taste, it is sweet and crisp when fully ripe and is starchy before that[116, 183]. Widely used in Chinese cooking, especially in chop suey. A flour or starch can be made from the dried and ground up corm and this is used to thicken sauces and to give a crisp coating to various deep-fried foods[183]. The root is about 4cm in diameter[206], it contains about 36% starch[193]. A nutritional analysis is available[218]. The plant is used for making salt in Zimbabwe[183]. No more details.

References   More on Edible Uses

Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Root (Dry weight)
  • 360 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 8g; Fat: 1.2g; Carbohydrate: 86g; Fibre: 3.5g; Ash: 5.5g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 22mg; Phosphorus: 350mg; Iron: 3.5mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 70mg; Potassium: 2450mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 0mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.4mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0.5mg; Niacin: 5mg; B6: 0mg; C: 25mg;
  • Reference: [ 218]
  • Notes:

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.
Antibacterial  Hepatic  Miscellany

The plant treats several ailments, including abdominal pain, amenorrhoea, hernia and liver problems[218]. The expressed juice of the tuber is bactericidal[218]. The juice expressed from the corms contains the antibiotic 'puchiin', which is effective against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Aerobacter aerogenes [1-8].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Fibre  Miscellany  Weaving

The leaf stems are used for weaving bags etc[193]. Stems are used for making sleeping mats (Sumatra, Sulawesi) and skirts (Papua New Guinea) [1-8]. Environmental: Soil improvement [1-8]. Animal feed, fodder, and forage. Stems are used as cattle feed or as mulch. [1-8].

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of marshes and shallow water, it prefers slightly acid soil conditions and a sunny position[200]. Requires a rich fertile soil[206]. Plants are not very frost hardy, the tubers should be harvested at the end of the growing season and stored in a cool damp but frost-free position until the spring[206]. The water chestnut is widely cultivated for its edible tubers in China, there are some named varieties[183, 200]. It requires a 7-month frost-free growing season in order to produce a crop[116, 117]. Plants perform best at temperatures between 30 - 35°c during the leafy stage of growth, and about 5°c lower when the tubers are being formed[206]. This species is unlikely to succeed outdoors in Britain, though by starting the plants off early in a greenhouse it might be possible to obtain reasonable yields in good summers[K]. Eleocharis dulcis grows well in tropical and sub-tropical areas below an elevation of 1,200 metres[300 ]. Plants perform best at temperatures between 30 - 35°c during the leafy stage of growth, and about 5°c lower when the tubers are being formed[206 ]. A minimum soil/water temperature of 15°c is required for adequate development of the corms[300 ]. Yields of 20 - 40 tonnes per hectare can be achieved[300 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



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Plant Propagation

Seed - we have no details for this species but suggest sowing the seed as soon as it is ripe in a greenhouse. Only just cover the seed and place the pot in 3cm of water to keep the soil wet. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division. Harvest the tubers at the end of the growing season, store them in a cool but frost-free place over the winter and plant them out in early spring.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Apulid, Biqi, Buslig, Chee-Chang, Chikai, Chinese Water Chestnut, Go nung, Ground-chestnut, Haeo cheen, Haeo-song krathiem, Inu kuro guwai, Kokthum, Kurogu-wai, Kuwai, Li zi, M'pofa, Ma Ti, Ma-Tai, Macre, Mampufa, Mem plong khtim, Okuroguwai, Pani phul, Po-chi, Singhara, Tall spike-rush, Tike, Waterchestnut, Waternut, Ye thit eir thee,

TEMPERATE ASIA: Honshu, Japan, Kyushu, Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan,China. TROPICAL ASIA: India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, PACIFIC: Micronesia, United States, Northern Mariana Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Tonga, Samoa AUSTRALASIA: Australia, New South Wales (northeast), Queensland, Western Australia (north), Northern Territory, AFRICA: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Côte D Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles.

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.

E. dulcis is a weed of drainage and irrigation canals where dense populations of the plant can impede water flow to agricultural areas such as rice fields. It is a problem, but not a serious weed, in tidal ricefields in Indonesia [1-8]

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Eleocharis palustrisCommon Spike-Rush, Common spikerushPerennial0.6 4-8  LMHSNWeWa101

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.


Expert comment


(Burm.f.)Trin. ex Hensch.

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.

Readers comment

Nick Park   Thu Nov 10 2005

Does anyone know a source of live plantmaterial in the UK or europe?

Burl   Sun Mar 19 2006

For live corms look in a large Chinese grocery. I got some in such a grocery, although admittedly in the U.S., but worth a look where you are.

Paul d'Aoust   Mon Oct 16 2006

I don't know if this would really classify as a possible hazard, but apparently the Chinese water chestnut can harbour liver flukes, so discretion should be used when eating raw. Perhaps this only pertains to water chestnuts grown in their native country though? How's that for inconclusive, eh?

Wikipedia's article on Eleocharis dulcis

Karen   Mon Nov 5 2007

Suite 101 organic gardens, edible chinese waterchestnuts excellent source of additional info

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