Perennial wkh stout, horizontal rhizome. Normal leaves only present on the first sterile shoots, leaves on the flowering stems reduced to long, wide, brownish sheaths. Inflorescence large, decompound, 10-30 cm across. Stamens 3;
Arabia, Asia-Tropical: Philippines (Philippines), Australasia: Queensland (Queensland cultivated), Lamao, Manila, New Caledonia cultivated, Pacific: Hawaii cultivated, Ryu Kyu Is cultivated, Sumatra West Coast, W. Java, tropical and South Africa
Native to Arabia, tropical and South Africa; elsewhere often cultivated for ornamental purposes and sometimes running wild, e.g. in Queensland, New Caledonia, Hawaii, Ryu Kyu Is.; also in Malesia escaped from cultivation: Sumatra West Coast, W. Java, Philippines (Manila, Lamao), often naturalised.
The very closely related C. alternifolius L. differs by its smooth stems, narrower leaves, lanceolate glumes, and narrowly oblong, blackish nuts measuring c.1 by ⅓ mm. It is native to Madagascar, Mauritius, and the Mascarenes; not found growing wild in Malesia.