Cyperus pulchellus R. Br.

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Cyperus pulchellus

Upland hill miombo woodland
Mafinga Mountains, Mafinga District
Jan 2022
Photo: Nick Wightman

Cyperus pulchellus

Upland hill miombo woodland
Mafinga Mountains, Mafinga District
Jan 2022
Photo: Nick Wightman

Cyperus pulchellus

Upland hill miombo woodland
Mafinga Mountains, Mafinga District
Jan 2022
Photo: Nick Wightman

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Species details: Click on each item to see an explanation of that item (Note: opens a new window)

Cyperus leucocephalus Retz.
Cyperus zambesiensis C.B.Clarke
Sorostachys pulchellus (R. Br.) Lye
Common names:
Frequency: Locally common
Status: Native
Slender perennial up to 45 cm high, with swollen stem-bases, forming small tufts; rhizome more or less absent; culms 11–36 cm long, 0.9–1.4 mm wide, trigonous, longitudinally grooved, smooth to slightly scabrid, the base covered with fibrous remains of old leaf sheaths. Leaves up to 18.5 cm long; leaf sheath pale green to pale reddish-brown, basal sheaths darker and split into fibres, 1–3.5 cm long; leaf blade linear, flat to v-shaped, 2–15 cm long, 1.8–2.9(4.2) mm wide, apex acute to acuminate, scabrid on margins and primary vein towards apex. Involucral bracts linear, spreading to reflexed, 2–3, lowermost 5–11 cm long, 1.8–2.9 mm wide. Inflorescence capitate; spikelets 15–60 in a very dense globose head, each with up to 20 flowers, lanceolate- ovate, 3.3–7.2 × 1.5–2.5 mm wide, rachis straight; glumes greyish-white, with cinnamon tinge, lanceolate, 1.4–1.8 × 0.5–1 mm wide, margin often curved inwards, keel indistinct, apex acute to rounded. Nutlet blackish to grey to (pale) brown, flattened-trigonous, (narrowly) obovoid to ellipsoid, 0.8–1 × 0.2–0.4 mm wide, papillose in longitudinal rows.
Type location:
Notes: The white subspherical heads make this species look superficially like a Kyllinga, but a lens immediately shows that the small spikelets each have up to 20 flowers.
Derivation of specific name: pulchellus: beautiful and little
Habitat: Seasonally wet places including seasonal bogs, damp flush on sandstone and pool margins
Altitude range: 400 - 1300 m
Flowering time:
Worldwide distribution: Widespread in West Africa, Chad, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, SE Asia and Australia.
Zambian distribution (Flora Zambesiaca): S
Zambian distribution (Provinces): Mc,S
Growth form(s): Perennial.
Endemic status:
Red data list status:
Insects associated with this species:
Spot characters: Display spot characters for this species
Content last updated: Tuesday 25 July 2023

Browning, J. et al. (2020). Cyperaceae Flora Zambesiaca 14 Pages 198 - 199.

Mapaura, A. & Timberlake, J. (eds) (2004). A checklist of Zimbabwean vascular plants Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 33 Sabonet, Pretoria and Harare Page 88.

Other sources of information about Cyperus pulchellus:

Our websites:

Flora of Malawi: Cyperus pulchellus
Flora of Zimbabwe: Cyperus pulchellus

External websites:

African Plants: A Photo Guide (Senckenberg): Cyperus pulchellus
African Plant Database: Cyperus pulchellus
BHL (Biodiversity Heritage Library): Cyperus pulchellus
EOL (Encyclopedia of Life): Cyperus pulchellus
GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility): Cyperus pulchellus
Google: Web - Images - Scholar
iNaturalist: Cyperus pulchellus
IPNI (International Plant Names Index): Cyperus pulchellus
JSTOR Plant Science: Cyperus pulchellus
Mansfeld World Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops: Cyperus pulchellus
Plants of the World Online: Cyperus pulchellus
Tropicos: Cyperus pulchellus
Wikipedia: Cyperus pulchellus

Copyright: Mike Bingham, Annette Willemen, Bart Wursten, Petra Ballings and Mark Hyde, 2011-24

Bingham, M.G., Willemen, A., Wursten, B.T., Ballings, P. and Hyde, M.A. (2024). Flora of Zambia: Species information: Cyperus pulchellus., retrieved 27 May 2024

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