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Annual or perennial herbs of very various habit, stonoliferous or cespitose, glabrous or only minutely hairy in the inflorescence. Leaves either with more or less developed blades, or reduced to bladeless sheaths; Inflorescence terminal, but often pseudolateral, capitate or anthelate, or consisting of a single spikelet. Flowers hermaphrodite, the upper ones often tabescent. Stamens 1-3;


Asia-Tropical: Sumatera (Sumatera present), worldwide present
A large genus (possibly 200 spp.) of worldwide distribution, in Malesia 21 spp. Several Malesian species are mountain plants with disjunct areas. Scirpus beccarii and S. junghuhnii are apparently endemics of Sumatra.


Only a few species have some economic importance. The stems of S. grossus and S. mucronatus are often used for making cheap but durable mats and bags; S.juncoides is sometimes used as a green food for cattle.


The genus is in comparison with other genera of the family heterogeneous. It comprises all the species of subfamily Cyperoideae left after the more or less homogeneous genera have been taken out. The only characteristics of Scirpus are the spirally arranged glumes and the style not articulated with the ovary.
Several attempts have been made to split it up into smaller genera, or to divide it into subgenera. These efforts have failed in my opinion, as the resulting genera or subgenera are just as well heterogeneous, and often agglomerates of very dissimilar species. The only way out is obviously to distinguish a number of sections each comprising a set of probably allied species, a procedure also employed by CHERMEZON in the Fl. Madag. The Malesian species are tentatively arranged in such sections, to which a separate key has been added.
Specific delimitation offers several difficulties, as many species appear to be racially differentiated, especially when isolated populations have been formed in mountainous country. A good example of this is the S. subcapitatus complex. It is remarkable that certain characters, generally accepted as important in Cyperaceae, as for example the structure of the perianth bristles, are less constant in such complexes, which are doubtless genetically coherent.
In some cases specific limits turn out to be less distinct than was assumed formerly; for instance S. mucronatus subsp. clemensii from New Guinea distinctly diminishes the demarcation between S. mucronatus and S.juncoides.


LINNÉ 1943: pp. 395-401. – In: Am. J. Bot.
LINNÉ 1941: 469-476, 691-700. – In: Am. J. Bot.
STEUD. 1855 – In: Syn. p 83
B. & H. 1883 – In: Gen. Pl. p 1049
KUNTH 1837 – In: En. p 157
PAX 1887 – In: E. & P., Nat. Pfl. Fam. 2. p 111
BEETLE 1940: pp. 63-64. – In: Am. J. Bot.
LINNÉ 1754: Gen. Pl., ed. 5. p 26
LINNÉ 1946: pp. 660-666. – In: Am. J. Bot.
Clarke 1908 – In: Kew Bull. p 111
LINNÉ 1942: 82-88, 653-656. – In: Am. J. Bot.
LINNÉ 1944: pp. 261-265. – In: Am. J. Bot.
BOECK. 1869–1870 – In: Linnaea. p 475