Kyllinga polyphylla: Greater Kyllinga

Family: Cyperaceae
Common name: Greater Kyllinga, Navua Sedge

Greater Kyllinga plants can be distinguished from other Kyllinga plants by their larger size of leaves, inflorescence, and leaf bracts. These clump-forming plants mostly grow to a height of 50-70 cms, but are capable of growing to about 2 meters.

Greater Kyllinga plants spread by means of root rhizomes that can spread horizontally helping the plant spread quickly and efficiently. Stems are dark green, triangular in cross-section, and grow as tall stalks that are 1-1.5 meters in length.

Single, dull-green, globular inflorescence is seen at the tip of each stalk, which is supported by long leaf bracts that are 30-60 cms long. These long leaves bend downwards and have origami-like folds, like those of most species of grass.

The flowers are held aloft on tall stalks, and that helps wind dispersal of the seeds. The inflorescence usually has one central rounded structure, but it might develop smaller spikelets to the sides.

Once the flowers mature, they turn yellow in color, later producing small brown seeds. The leaves have slight serrations on the edges, and can give a paper cut if not handled carefully.

There are 40-45 species of Kyllinga plants, also called sedges, that are considered invasive in most parts of the world, due to their rapid growth and propagation. Root rhizomes ensure that the plants grow right back even after the leaves are destroyed due to floods, fire, or extreme weather conditions.

They grow in backyards, wastelands, marshy areas, and moist soil, especially during the rainy season. The thin, sharp leaves make them unpalatable for grazing animals, thus helping the plant colonize pastures and grasslands.

Flowering and fruiting are usually from September to May, the entire plant filled with fan-like inflorescence having a central spike and radiating leaf bracts. They are native to Africa, but are now seen in coastal areas and tropical countries world over.

Propagation is through seeds and rhizomes.