A herbaceous plant belonging to the genus of the cyperaceae, whose botanical name is cyperus papirus, is commonly called papyrus; in fact, to this genus belong hundreds of species, spread in most of the world, adapted to live in humid places, on the edges of slow water streams, or close to ponds or swamps.
In Italy, it is often cultivated as apartment plant, choosing species of African origin, which could not withstand the winter rigours; there are species which live also in our peninsula in the wild, in the humid zones of the country.
They are herbaceous plants, which produce a thick rooting apparatus, formed by creeping rhizomes, usually covered by dark bracts, similar to scales; from the rhizomes develop some thin erect stems, which can reach the 3-5 metres of height, depending on the species and the climate in which the plants are cultivated; the stems are rigid, cylindrical or triangular, of green colour, and at the apex they carry a tuft of leaves (or bracts) of bright green colour, flat and ribbon-like or even filiform or triangular.
In summer, at the apex of the tuft of leaves, small inflorescences bloom, formed by greenish flowers, inconspicuous, followed by the small dark seeds.
Species native to North Africa, it is the best known, whose name is given also to most of the other species of Cyprus; it has thin stems, tall up to a couple of metres, and a tuft of thin bracts, filiform, disorderly, with a light and feathery appearance. There are dwarf varieties, which do not exceed the 25-35 cm in height, much appreciated especially for the cultivation in pot.
This cyprus can stand quite low temperatures, but it fears the frost, especially if intense and prolonged, and especially if the water around the rhizomes has the possibility to freeze completely. This papyrus has widely naturalized in most of the tropical and subtropical zones of the earth, becoming in some places a strongly invasive species. In Italy we can see examples of cyperus papyrus in the wild in a buna part of the southern regions.
Flowering takes place in summer, and the small flowers are green-brown.
Good morning, in the house I have a beautiful papyrus that has now reached the two meters of height. I think it is a false papyrus, the stems are not so big and has never produced flowers, but the leaves … Good morning, I have three young papyri in the apartment and I noticed that the fogle are wrapped in a kind of very thin cobweb, here a white fabric. What can it be ??Thank you …
The species of papyrus are more than six hundred and differ in the height of the stems and the type of inflorescences, more or less showy, but all have in common the characteristic of requiring abundant…
Cyperus Alternifolius (or involucratus)
Small species, which produces thin cylindrical stems, which usually do not exceed the 150-180 cm of height; the apical bracts are in tufts not too thick, and have a ribbon shape, with a sharp tip, of a bright green colour; in summer, it produces small flowers, between the apical bracts, of a green or pale brown colour, to which follow the small capsules with the seeds.
This species of papyrus is native to the humid zones of Madagascar, and, usually, it is the one which we can easily find in nurseries, to be cultivated as apartment plant. In fact, in spite of the fact that the papyrus can adapt also in very unfavourable conditions to its development, this species tends to get completely ruined if exposed to the winter frost, and is therefore often cultivated in pot, in way to be able to move the Inca sa containers by the arrival of the winter.
Plant of easy cultivation, it is difficult to see it in the garden, even if in most of the peninsula it might be cultivated in full land without problems.
Species native to the eastern zone of Australia, decidedly particular: this papyrus forms thick flattened tufts of thin bracts, similar to thick leaves of grass, tall at most 35-45 cm; in summer, between the bracts, stand thin stems, which carry small tufts of tiny bracts, inconspicuous flowers. Very decorative species, it is difficult to find in Italy, even if its peculiar characteristics render it very interesting.
In the wild, these papyri develop also in not humid zones, and can stand periods of extreme drought, contrary to most other species. In some areas, this papyrus is cultivated to prepare grass carpets that resist even in conditions of high humidity in the soil, where most of the grasses would die quickly.
Papyrus diffused in nature in Central America and in the southern part of the United States; in the marshy areas, these plants develop in large colonies, formed by thin elongated stems, erect or arched, which form dense tufts, similar to thick and rigid grass; in summer, thin stems develop, carrying the tiny flowers: each flower is subtended by a small brown or dark bract; it is the colour of these bracts which gives the name to the species.
Not easy to find in nurseries in Italy, these papyri bear quite well the winter cold.
Species native to the American continent, diffused, however, in a large part of the world, in the humid zones; these powders seem to be able to develop everywhere, even in conditions of brackish water, or particularly rich of mineral salts. It produces wide tufts of thin stems, tall at the most about sixty centimetres, very similar to those of cyperus niger. The flowers appear in summer, along the stems, united in a sort of cylindrical spikelets, of green or brown colour.
Very elegant species, and with a delicate appearance, native to Mexico; this papyrus is often cultivated also in Europe, but usually as an indoor plant, as it fears the cold and cannot survive in a climate with temperatures below 7-10°C. It produces thin erect stems, tall about 45-65 cm, which carry at the extremity thin ribbon-like bracts, short, which form a thick and compact tuft; in summer, it produces small insignificant flowers.
This papyrus is often cultivated also in Italy, and it is possible to find it among the apartment plants; more appreciated than the common papyrus, as when cultivated in pot, it produces a thick head of stems, but little developed in height, giving a decidedly more pleasant effect than many other species of papyrus.
Although it is a plant present in our country in nature, in the wild, typically papyrus is grown as an indoor plant, rather than as an aquatic plant along the banks of lakes, this is because most species of papyrus more decorative fear the cold.
This does not mean that cold and frost necessarily kill the plants; on the contrary, most of the papyri can withstand frost well, even down to -10°C, which however causes the drying up of the entire aerial part, while the rhizomes enter a period of dormancy. The cold resistant papyri, once the spring arrives, begin to sprout again, and develop quite quickly. To avoid that our papyrus goes into dormancy, it is sufficient to cultivate it in pot, and to move it in the house during the cold months.
Moreover, these plants are very resistant, and the change of climate, from the garden to the apartment, usually does not disturb them too much. In fact, even if, in the wild, these plants live in full sun, in apartment, they show to be able to survive even in poor light conditions, constant shading. The only thing you notice in these cases is a slight decrease in the brilliance of the color of the leaves.
They are not very demanding plants, as they do not need a particularly rich or fertile soil, or even a deep or sandy soil; any soil may be good, which is usually mixed with the sand, in order to form a heavier compound, which does not dissolve completely in the water.
If possible, it is always a good idea to move the papyrus plants outside in the summer; if in the house we keep our plant in a bright place, we can also place it outside in the sun; if instead in the house our papyrus lives in the shade, we should keep it with little sun even when we move it outside.
Watering the papyrus
The main cultural needs of papyrus are watering: it is in fact an aquatic plant, which can not survive for long if left in a soil and in a dry climate. For this reason it is necessary to water the papyrus frequently and regularly, leaving the soil always wet, well soaked in water, without worrying about any water stagnation. The fleshy rhizomes of the papyrus in fact can survive without problems even in conditions of perennial and constant immersion in water.
If we are lucky enough to live in areas with a mild winter climate, we can plant our papyrus along the banks of a pond, in the garden. If instead where we live the winter has temperatures below 5-10 ° C, then it will be better to grow our papyrus in a pot. In order to guarantee the plant a right quantity of water, usually the watering is not sufficient, especially in summer, or even in winter, when the heating system is active in the house.
For this reason, usually, the papyrus pot is inserted in a wide and deep pot holder, which is always kept full of water; in this way, the rhizomes will always be submerged by at least 10-15 cm of water; besides this, the continuous evaporation of the water from the pot, will guarantee also a good ambient humidity around the plant. Let’s remember, however, to top up the saucer frequently, keeping the water level in the saucer quite regular.
Papyrus flowers produce countless tiny, fertile seeds; plants obtained from seed, however, take several years to give rise to a rhizome of adequate size to produce a well-developed plant; for this reason, papyri are often propagated simply by dividing the heads of rhizomes.
In autumn, the plants are simply grubbed up from the ground, and the rhizomes are portioned, keeping for each portion a little rhizome and a little well-developed roots; the plants thus obtained are immediately repotted individually.
It is also very simple to produce new plants of papyrus by cutting; in spring or summer, we take a stem well healthy and developed, we shorten it to about one third, keeping the apex; the tuft of leaves is trimmed, leaving only 2-3 cm of length. The cuttings prepared in this way are placed in water, but upside down, that is, dipping not the lower part of the stem, but the apex, with the tuft of leaves.
Within a few weeks, from the apex thus prepared, a new small plant will be produced, which we will be able to plant in a suitable pot.
Papyrus, a precious material
The term papyrus, in addition to the plant, indicates the ancient sheets used by the Egyptians for writing. In fact, still today, in most western languages, paper is named with terms derived from the ancient papyrus; this is because, the ancient Egyptians used precisely the stems of cyperus papyrus to prepare the papers they were writing on.
Egyptian society based its flourishing economy on a river, the Nile, along whose banks enormous specimens of cyperus grew in abundance; for this reason, this plant, was a low-cost material, easy to find and use.
The papyrus sheets were prepared using the papyrus stems, directly; these stems were cut into strips, and macerated for hours in water; later, softened by this process, they were placed side by side and pressed, until they formed large robust leaves, remains of which were found in the tombs of the pharaohs, and therefore still resist the passage of time.
Papyrus: Papyrus Diseases
The Papyrus is a plant native to temperate and humid climates and needs at least 25°C to vegetate in the best way and it starts to suffer when the temperatures drop below 15°C. That said, it is easy to understand that the papyrus at our temperatures is not particularly well at certain times of the year and therefore we must resort to an indoor cultivation that is obviously not ideal for the plant.
Growing the plant in the apartment you have to be very careful about watering and the most common diseases in these plants, and now let’s proceed with a review of all major diseases.
First of all it is good to differentiate between diseases and dysfunctions because not always a deterioration of the plant is actually caused by a disease.
One of the main causes of Papyrus decay is poor irrigation or an excess in the irrigation of the plant that leads to a rapid rottenness of the leaves. A constantly moist soil in fact does not allow the roots to breathe, consequently these rot and the rot is reflected in the leaves that begin to darken at the base presenting brownish spots.
One of the remedies when you start to see the rotten leaves at the base is definitely to suspend watering and cut off the rotten parts of both the leaves and the roots.
Another deterioration that can be seen in these plants is the loss of streaks from the leaves that due to a lack of light can become completely green. An opposite symptom, namely the loss of colour by the leaves, is due to an excess of direct light that can cause the leaves to fade.
Still remaining on the leaves, another symptom of decay is the drying up of the tips of the papyrus leaves, a phenomenon caused by an excess of dryness of the soil and a scarcity of moisture in the environment of cultivation of the plant.
As for the insects that most frequently affect papyrus, aphids and cochineal are certainly the insects that most frequently attack this plant. These insects are very frequent in indoor plants and often spread in greenhouses and in warm humid environments where there are different plants.
The cochineal that attacks the papyrus is usually of two types: floury cochineal and brown cochineal. The first is recognizable by the classic woolly appearance of the color white. It is easy to remove mechanically and if the infestation is contained you can choose for a mechanical cleaning of the leaves.
- The papyrus plant is linked to Egyptian writing, but also to Arabic, Latin, Greek and Aramaic texts. The papyrus covers
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