Cyperus papyrus 

Scope: Pan-Africa
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Liliopsida Poales Cyperaceae

Scientific Name: Cyperus papyrus L.
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Papyrus Sedge, Papyrus
French Jonc du Nil
Spanish Papiro
Chlorocyperus papyrus Rikli
Cyperus domesticus Poir.
Cyperus papyraceus Crantz
Cyperus papyrus L. ssp. antiquorum (Willd.) Chiov.
Cyperus syriacus Parl.
Papyrus antiquorum Willd.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern (Regional assessment) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2010-06-29
Assessor(s): Juffe, D.
Reviewer(s): Luke, W.R.Q. & Smith, K.G.
Although this species is threatened in Central and Northern Africa, it is common in other African regions and a widespread threat throughout the whole area has not been identified. Therefore, it is listed as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:i>Cyperus papyrus is distributed in tropical central Africa, at the upper parts of the White Nile, from where it penetrates westward into Lake Tchad and the Niger region. It is cultivated in Egypt since the Ancient Empire (Cyperus papyrus subsp. antiquorum (Willd.) Chiov.), and was introduced in some parts of the Mediterranean basin, and in America and Australia. While having been so important for paper-manufacturing in ancient Egypt, it was believed extinct in this country until its recent rediscovery by M.N. El Hadidi in Umm Risha Lake in Wadi Natroum. The plant is cultivated elsewhere.

The plants in Western Africa have probably all been introduced in recent times (since 1,800 AD). Plants were introduced to Ghana, then deliberately erradicated to prevent them colonizing the Volta River Dam, and have been brought in again as ornamentals which have escaped to the river again. In Eastern Africa this species is found in the low and medium lands of Burundi: between 774 - 1,600 m above sea level. It is found in the Rusizi plain and the unexploited area of Nymuswaga and Akanyaru valleys. In Malawi it occurs in Zomba at Lake Chilwa, Monkey Bay and Elephant Marsh. The plant is widespread in Kenya from 450 - 2,100 m above sea level. In Southern Africa, it is found in Botswana (Okavango Delta), Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Also found in Madagascar.
Countries occurrence:
Angola; Botswana; Burundi; Chad; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Egypt; Ethiopia; Gabon; Guinea; Kenya; Liberia; Malawi; Mauritania; Mozambique; Namibia; Rwanda; South Africa; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda; Zambia
Benin; Ghana; Mali; Niger; Nigeria; Senegal
Additional data:
Lower elevation limit (metres):1000
Upper elevation limit (metres):7
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Its is quite common throughout Africa and can occur in very dense populations. In Egypt it has been limited to one sub-population at the Umm Risha Lake in Wadi Natroum.
Current Population Trend:Increasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Cyperus papyrus is a giant perennial rhizomatous sedge (up to 3 m) widely distributed throughout the wetter parts of Africa. It prefers peaty soils where it can form vast stands, it is less abundant on different substrates. It grows along stream banks, in marshes, swallow lakes, in rivers, forming rafts in open water and fringing lakes. Often dominant over large areas. Forms floating mats or islands. Is a popular ornamental plant so has economic value. Is also used for making sleeping mats and rafts in other parts of its range.

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: It has been widely dispersed by man under cultivation.The plant was first described by Theophrastus (c. 372–287 B.C.) from material under cultivation in the Nile delta. The very extensive cultivation of papyrus that was carried on in Egypt died in the 9th and 10th Centuries A.D. by competition from new sorts of paper. The culms are suitable for pulping and could be used in paper-making. In Lake Chad, Yedina make canoes and rafts of the stems, and weave watertight baskets. The plant forms a fringe around the lake and where it is rooted to the substrate it is said to mark the lake’s lower water-level. But it also forms floating islands growing out of a mass of rotting vegetation. The plant has been recorded in Dahomey but has not so far (1971) appeared in the Volta Lake where it could become a noxious weed forming large areas of floating swamp.Though use of the culms in hut-building may seem attractive, it is not a good thatching material. In Gabon it is plaited into large mats and made into house-partitions. With the outer cortex removed, cut into sections and sun-dried, it is used to stuff mattresses and cushions.The alkaloids tyramine and octopamine have been recorded present in the leaves. A root-decoction together with the leaf-sap of Maytenus senegalensis (Lam.) Exell (Celastraceae) is taken by women in Tanganyika for sterility.The Hausa of N Nigeria pull apart the leaf and the nature of the tear indicates either the rupture (sa ani) or the cementing of friendship. In Gabon the chewed dried rhizomes are used to ward off evil spirits either by using them to beat the limbs, or by steeping them in water which is used for ablution.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In Western Africa the species is invasive so is often actively erradicated. Poses a threat to other species rather than having any threats to itself so it is not considered to have threats throughout Africa. Natural disasters such as drought may threaten the species. Also, infrastructure development such as damming may be a threat. Local harvesting for sustainable use in medicine, fibre and building materials could threaten the species in the future.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In Western Africa this species is within protected areas. In general no conservation measures are required although further research on application of legal measures of conservation, conservation of the habitats within micro-reserves, evaluation of the size and dynamics of populations, re-introductions and harvest management has been suggested.

Citation: Juffe, D. 2010. Cyperus papyrus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T164158A5756552. . Downloaded on 26 September 2018.
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