Kyllinga nemoralis: White Kyllinga

Family: Cyperaceae
Common name: White Kyllinga, White-flowered Kyllinga, White water sedge, Whitehead spikesedge

White Kyllinga is a small clump-forming wild plant seen very commonly in backyards, open areas, meadows, agricultural land, and roadsides, all over India. They are also seen as introduced species in most other tropical countries. They grow to a height of 20-30 cms with thin, long, leaves radiating in all directions.

White Kyllinga has long root rhizomes that help the plants spread quickly, forming small clumps. The stem is green and erect, triangular in cross-section. White Kyllinga leaves are 10-20 cms long, younger leaves erect, and older leaves bending downwards towards the ground.

They are about .8-1 cm wide with a prominent sunken mid-rib that gives the leaves a V-shape. The inflorescence is very pretty, a small globe of white, lifted above the plant on tall stalks, and supported by long, leafy bracts which have lesser width than normal leaves.

In addition to the large central flowerhead, there might be smaller lateral ones to the sides, though it’s not very common. These flowerheads are made up of 10-25 small spikelets or individual flowers.

These flowers later form tiny seeds that are brown, about 1-1.2 mm long. Flowering and fruiting happen from July to November.

White Kyllinga plants are very hardy and capable of surviving drought, heavy rains, salinity, poor soil, little soil, soil erosion, and weather fluctuations. Their long-spreading roots help hold the soil together, and also prevent grazing animals from pulling out these plants by their roots.

These characteristics along with their asexual reproduction from root rhizomes have made White Kyllinga plants highly invasive in most countries.

The name nemoralis denotes woods or groves, where these plants are very commonly seen. In spite of its invasive properties, the White Kyllinga plant has some medicinal uses because of its analgesic, antioxidant, antimalarial, anti-microbial, anticancer, antidiabetic, and anti-venom properties.

Propagation is through root rhizomes or seeds.