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Annual or perennial glabrous herbs. Leaves elongate, linear; Inflorescence terminal, capitate, with (1-)2-8 spikelets, subtended by some involucral bracts similar to the leaves. Flowers hermaphrodite, the upper ones tabescent. Stamens 1-2;


Africa present, Asia-Tropical, Australasia, Continental S. and SE. Asia present, Pacific Islands absent, tropical America present, tropical and South Africa present
About 15 spp., in tropical America, tropical and South Africa, and from continental S. and SE. Asia through Malesia to Australia, apparently absent from the Pacific islands; most of the species in Africa; in Malesia only 2 spp.


The most important character of the genus lies in the two median hypogynous scales, which are difficult to discern as they are very thin and closely adhere to the nut. They are interpreted in various ways (see ). The most acceptable interpretation to me is that they represent the perianth, a view already advanced by BENTHAM (), and followed by HOLTTUM (). They take the scales for homologous with the bristles in Scirpus and Eleocharis. Then the genus has to be placed next to Scirpus sect. Micranthi, to which it shows affinities in several respects.
According to VON GOEBEL (1887) each stamen of L. chinensis has two thecae, but each theca has only one pollen chamber (checked by Dr. W. VAN HEEL, 1972).
CHERMEZON divided the genus into 2 sections:
  • Sect. Acntae: spikelets squarrose by the mucronate glumes.
  • Sect. Obtusae (correct name at present sect. Lipocarpha): spikelets not squarrose; glumes not mucronate.

Of the Malesian species L. chinensis belongs to sect. Lipocarpha, L. microcephala to sect. Acutae.


STEUD. 1855 – In: Syn. p 129
Clarke 1908 – In: Kew Bull. p 116
K.SCH. 1895 – In: Engl., Pflanzenw. Ost. Afr. C. p 126
BOECK. 1871 – In: Linnaea. p 114
R.BR. 1810: Prod. p 219
KUNTH 1837 – In: En. p 266