Broad-leaved Cumbungi

Typha orientalis C. Presl

Synonyms - T. angustifolia ssp. muelleri, T. muelleri

Family: - Typhaceae.


Typha is from the Greek name typhe. Orientalis refers to the orient or east where it was originally found.

Cumbungi is possibly of aboriginal origin from cumber, to hinder, and bung, a stopper.

Other Names:


Cat's Tail





Broad-leaved Cumbungi is a tall, rigid, perennial, rhizomatous reed to 4.5 m high with flat strap-like leaves to 2 m long and a thick cylindrical stem. The flowering stem is tipped by a cylindric, brown, velvety brush of densely packed tiny flowers. The upper part of the inflorescence has minute male flowers and the lower part equally small female flowers. There is a small gap between the two parts of the inflorescence. It flowers in spring and summer.

Broad-leaved Cumbungi is very similar to and difficult to separate from the native Narrow-leaved Cumbungi (Typha domingensis). Both Typha species are native to eastern Australia, however only Narrow-leaved Cumbungi is native to Western Australia. Narrow-leaved Cumbungi has a paler 'cinnamon' brown flower spike with a narrower female part which is more distinctly separated from the male part. Both native and introduced species are found in swamps and fringing lakes and watercourses, the two sometimes growing together. As well as being very similar, intermediates between the two species have been found.




First leaves:


Grass-like with thick and spongy sheath at the base. Leaves in two rows on opposite sides of the stem. The uppermost leaves overtop the flowering head.

Blade - Flat near the top and slightly curved near the base. Tough. 5-20 mm wide by 900-2000 mm long.

Auricles - Usually distinct rounded lobes on the uppermost 2-4 leaves. Lower leaves often without auricles.

Sheath - Long, spongy and open surrounding stem. Small, brown, elongated mucilage glands on the upper inner face of sheath.


Creeping, branched rhizomes with stiff, erect, leafy aerial shoots to 4500 mm tall. 10-30 mm wide at the base and occasionally up to 70 mm wide.

Flower stem - 4-7 mm wide below the flower head. May reach a height of 4500 mm. Each stem produces one flower head.

Flower head:

At the ends of stems. Upper or male spike and lower female spike may be separated by up to 60 mm. Both are dense and cylindrical. Female spike, velvety and buff-coloured at first but later matures to dark brown or almost black due to colour of stigmas. Each spike is 100-310 mm long by 10-30 mm diameter when mature. Releases a fluffy mass of seeds at maturity. Flowers on male spike fall off with age.


Minute, unisexual. Females reduced to pistil but with fine silky hairs on pedicel(flower stalk). Sterile flowers have swollen tip and are longer than fertile ones.

Male florets are naked and separated by hair like bracts.

Bracts -

Ovary - Slender style. Stigmas are brown, parallel sided and 1 mm long, and usually curved.

Perianth - In female spike they are not visible or absent.

Stamens -

Anthers - Sheds pollen as single grains or in sets of 4 grains.


Dry, single chambered capsule that breaks off with the stigma and the short hairy pedicel still attached.


Cylindrical, one end flattened and the other pointed.


Fine adventitious feeder roots from the stout branched rhizomes.

Key Characters:


Life cycle:

Perennial. Shoots emerge from the massive rhizomatous root system in spring and grow rapidly over summer. Flower heads emerge in late spring and release large amounts of pollen. Large numbers of seeds are produced and released. After the first frosts of winter, the top growth dies and builds up a mulch at the base of the plant.

Seeds germinate in mud or under water from December to April rapidly grow to form rhizomes. They may flower within 6 months of germination but most don't flower until the following season.


Tolerates 1000 ppm total soluble salts.

Optimum growth at 25 degrees C. and quite sensitive to temperature changes.


Flowering times:

November to January.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Seeds germinate from December to April in mud or under water.

222,000 seeds per spike or 6,000,000 per square metre.

Germinates in high temperature, low oxygen, high light conditions. Seedlings also require high light conditions. Therefore there is little germination or establishment in thick stands.

Vegetative Propagules:

Rhizomatous roots.



Restricts the growth of Crassula helmsii and probably their own seedling growth in dense stands.

Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spreads by seed and vegetative means.

Most new colonies arise from the germination of seed carried by the wind or in mud on the feet of birds, livestock or man, or on agricultural implements. Once a plant has survived its initial establishment stage it begins to produce rhizomes which may extend the plant to a diameter of 3000 mm in its first year. In this first year many vegetative aerial shoots are produced and buds for the following years growth. With the onset of winter vegetative growth ceases and the aerial growth withers. In spring growth starts again from buds on the rhizomes. Stems bearing immature inflorescences emerge fairly early in the growing season. Flowering, which is made obvious by the production of large amounts of pollen in the upper (male) part of the flowering head, occurs in early summer. After pollination the lower (female) portion of the flowering head darkens in colour and increases in diameter. As the seeds mature, bristle hairs at the base of the individual florets dry out and tend to spread. The florets breaks away from its stalk and the accumulated pressure of hundreds of thousands of bristle hairs is suddenly released, ejecting the seed, with its parachute of hairs, either singly or in dense mats. Most seed falls close to the parent but the pappus does allow some seed to be blown some kilometres from the mother plant. Other are dispersed by floating away on the local currents.

Origin and History:

T. orientalis is from Malaysia and New Zealand and probably native to the eastern states. Introduced to WA.

T. domingensis is native.

T. latifolia is from temperate areas of the northern hemisphere.

Three species of Typha are found in Tasmania. The most common, T. orientalis C.Presl, is recorded from all parts of Tasmania except the highlands. T. domingensis Pers. appears to be restricted to the north-east of Tasmania. T. latifolia L., an introduced species is recorded from the Scottsdale area. Over the last 10 years Cumbungi has become far more widespread. Cumbungi species occur in the mainland states and are widely distributed throughout the temperate parts of the world.




Colonises still or slow flowing fresh or slightly brackish water up to 3000 mm in depth. It is found up to an altitude of about 800m above sea level.


Temperate and tropical areas.


Plant Associations:

Water weeds.



Can be grazed when young.

Provide nesting sites and shelter for water birds.

Prevents erosion of stream banks.

Mulching effects prevent other weeds establishing.

Rhizomes were used by aboriginals to make a flour for cakes (But Beware! it does contain toxic components if you decide to become an amateur 'bush tucker man')

Leaves have been woven into mats and baskets.

Fluffy seed heads used to be collected for stuffing pillows.

Potential source of fibre for paper.


The dense stands and rapid growth of Cumbungi make it one of the most troublesome of the emergent aquatic weeds, causing restricted water flow, siltation, reduction of water storage capacity in dams and an increased risk of flooding in streams and slow flowing rivers. It is claimed, though not proved, that its transpiration accelerates the loss of water from storage dams during summer.

Decaying top growth can lead to anaerobic conditions that foul the water.

Provides breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Weed of rice crops, irrigation channels and amenity areas


Rhizomes are reported to be toxic.




Secondary weed in Tasmania.

Management and Control:

Burning helps reduce the build up of dead plant material that clogs channels and reduces subsequent growth.

Cultivation, mowing and hand pulling are used.

Autumn cultivations to expose rhizomes to frosts works in areas with reliable frosts.

Cutting the stems 150 mm below the water level at flowering (in early summer) results in decay of many of the rhizomes.

In reservoirs, lowering the water level then bulldozing is often practised. Lowering the water level, burning then deep flooding provides cheap control.

Herbicides such as glyphosate and 2,2 DPA also provide good control if 60% of their stem is above water at flowering when the herbicides are applied. Best results with glyphosate have been for applications between the opening of the male flowers and the expansion of the female flowers.

Eradication strategies:

Eradication is difficult because of the large seed production and the hard-to-kill, rhizomatous root system. Cultivation, mowing, physical removal, burning and herbicides are used for control. In areas with reliable frosts, autumn cultivations to expose rhizomes can provide useful control. Cutting the stems 150 mm below the water level at flowering, in late spring, results in decay of many of the rhizomes. Burning helps reduce the build up of dead plant material that clogs channels and reduces subsequent growth. In reservoirs, lowering the water level then bulldozing or burning followed by deep flooding provides cheap control. When removing by hand, ensure all the rhizomatous root is removed.

10 L/ha glyphosate(360g/L) or 20 kg/ha 2,2-DPA(740g/kg) provide good control if 60% of the stem is above the water at flowering when the herbicides are applied. For hand sprays use 100 mL glyphosate(360g/L) or 200 g 2,2-DPA(740g/kg) plus 25 mL wetting agent in 10 L water. For best results, apply annually in late spring to summer after the male flowers have opened and before the female flowers have expanded. Application at other times or wiping the leaves with glyphosate also provides reasonable control. Use glyphosate products registered for aquatic situations.

Herbicide resistance:

None reported.

Biological Control:

Bio control is unlikely because of its native plant status.

Related plants:

Narrow-leaved Cumbungi (Typha domingensis Pers.) has a paler 'cinnamon' brown flower spike with a narrower female part which is more distinctly separated from the male part. It has narrower leaves and is a less robust plant. It is more common in SA and less common in NSW than Typha orientalis.

Typha orientalis and Typha domingensis have often been grouped together and referred to as Typha angustifolia, a northern hemisphere species.

Plants of similar appearance:


Auld, B.A. and Medd R.W. (1992). Weeds. An illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne).

Black, J.M. (1978). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). P72. Diagram.

Burbidge, N.T. and Gray, M. (1970). Flora of the Australian Capital Territory. (Australian National University Press, Canberra). P12-13. Diagram.

Cunningham, G.M., Mulham, W.E., Milthorpe, P.L. and Leigh, J.H. (1992). Plants of Western New South Wales. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P37. Photo.

Hyde-Wyatt, B.H. and Morris, D.I. (1980) The Noxious and Secondary Weeds of Tasmania. (Tasmanian Department of Agriculture, Hobart, Tasmania). P108-109. Diagram.

Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #1243.6.

Marchant, N.G., Wheeler, J.R., Rye, B.L., Bennett, E.M., Lander, N.S. and Macfarlane, T.D. (1987). Flora of the Perth Region. (Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Agriculture, Western Australia). P862.

Parsons, W.T. and Cuthbertson, E.G. (1992). Noxious weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). 145-149. Photos.


Collated by HerbiGuide. Phone 08 98444064 or for more information.