Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Cumbungis (Typha spp.) are robust semi-aquatic perennial herbs that possess rhizomes.
  • Typha domingensis and T. orientalis are native to Australia and T. latifolia, is naturalised.
  • Cumbungi grows in swamps, lake and stream margins, dams and irrigation channels.
  • As a natural part of the Australian wetlands, stands of Cumbungi provide habitat for birds, animals and invertebrates, but they need to be controlled in situations where they are causing problems.
  • Cumbungi is a problem weed in dams, irrigation channels, table drains and in natural habitats.
  • Both physical and chemical techniques are essential for effective control of established populations.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Cumbungis (Typha spp.) are robust, semi-aquatic perennial (long lived) herbs. Creeping branched rhizomes (spreading underground stems) terminate in upright, leafy aerial shoots that grow to about 3 m. The leaves are mainly produced from the base of each stem in two opposite rows. The lower part of each leaf is an open spongy sheath that envelopes the stem. The leaf blade is slightly curved immediately above the sheath and flattens towards the end (Parson & Cuthbertson 2001).

The flower heads are two brown adjoining or slightly separated unisexual spikes at the top of the stems, with the male flower above the female. The male flowers are separated by groups of hair like bracts (modified leaves). The female flowers are arranged in cylindrical spikes 5–30 mm diameter and 5–30 times as long as wide, with the tips of the floral structures forming a velvety surface.

The fruit is very small and 1-seeded. The seed is spindle shaped with one flat end and one pointy end (Briggs 1987; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Typha has about 15 species worldwide, of which T. domingensis and T. orientalis are native to Australia and a third, T. latifolia, is naturalised in Australia. T. domingensis is known commonly as Narrow-leaved Cumbungi or Narrow-leaved Bulrush and T. orientalis as Broad-leaved Cumbungi or Broad-leaved Bulrush (Briggs 1987; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

For further information and assistance with identification of Cumbungi, contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Cumbungi grows in swamps, lake and stream margins, dams and irrigation channels (Briggs 1987; Finlayson et al. 1995).

Are there similar species?

Typha spp. are distinguished by differences in the female flower head. In T. latifolia, the floral bracts are absent, the stigma, the part of the flower that receives the pollen, is somewhat fleshy, the spike is blackish brown, rarely red-brown, 1.7–2.5 cm diameter and 10–20 cm long, and is adjoining, or to 0.5 cm away, from the male flower head.

In T. domingensis, the floral bracts are numerous and broadly spoon shaped, stigmas are not fleshy, the mature spike is cinnamon brown, 0.5–2 cm diameter and 12–40 cm long, and is separated from the male flower-head by 2–5.5 cm.

The floral bracts of T. orientalis are few or absent, stigmas are not fleshy, the spike is chestnut-brown, 1–3 cm diameter, and 8–30 cm long, and usually adjoining the male flower head or, at least, no more than 3.5 cm away (Briggs 1987; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Despite their common names, it is difficult to separate T. domingensis and T. orientalis on the basis of leaf blade width. There is considerable overlap in this and other characters between the two species and expert help is sometimes required for identification (Brown & Brooks 2002).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

As a natural part of Australian wetlands, stands of Cumbungi provide cover, food nesting places for water birds and other native animals as well as habitats for aquatic insects, native fishes, freshwater invertebrates (yabbies etc.) and frogs. The plant protects the sides of creeks, lakes and ponds from erosion. The prolific growth provides natural mulch for adjoining foreshores (Tamar Valley Weed Strategy undated). Indigenous Australians used Cumbungi as a source of fibre and young rhizomes were eaten (Briggs 1987).

Native ecosystems: Cumbungi is a successful competitor in aquatic sites. Its tall, dense spring growth dominates the canopy during summer and early autumn and bulky rhizomes occupy most of the space available in the substrate (Finlayson et al. 1995). A study based on a series of aerial photographs of Lake Forrestdale just south of Perth illustrates how quickly Cumbungi can spread once established at a site. The photos revealed that prior to 1964, no T. orientalis occurred at the lake with the first stand appearing in 1967. By 1976, a fairly large stand had established on the southern end of the lake and by 1984 it had colonised almost the entire 6 km of lake margin. In the process, dense stands of T. orientalis had displaced the native sedges and rushes in the understorey of the Melaleuca woodland fringing the lake (Brown & Brooks 2002).

Agriculture: Cumbungi has become a problem in Australian irrigation areas. It can rapidly spread throughout a dam or irrigation channel, restricting the water flow, increasing the rate of siltation and by altering the water flow, increasing the risk of flooding and erosion (Tamar Valley Weed Strategy undated). The problem has become more serious since the advent of continuous rice cropping in the Ord River region, the Burdekin River, the Murrumbidgee, Coleambally and the Murray River Valleys (Finlayson et al. 1995). Over a period of time it can greatly decrease the amount of water being stored in farm dams and increase the amount of maintenance necessary (Tamar Valley Weed Strategy undated).

Urban areas: Cumbungi has recently established itself along roadsides in table drains that do not have permanent water. This has led to an increase in the amount and cost of routine maintenance of these drains. Also, because of the large amounts of organic matter produced, Cumbungi can cause problems with water pollution when the leaves die off and start to decompose (Tamar Valley Weed Strategy undated).

In New Zealand, T. latifolia (Giant Reedmace) forms dense thickets, displacing native vegetation. It is thought that it could potentially hybridise with the native T. orientalis (Raupo) (Auckland Regional Council 2008).

How does it spread?

The spreading rhizome system of Cumbungi increases the size of existing colonies each year. Establishment of new colonies is by seed. The seed is enclosed in a follicle (a dry fruit that opens along a slit) with a feathery attachment which aids in wind dispersal and as a result the seed may be transported many kilometres. Within minutes of contact with water the dry follicular tissues saturate and split open. The seed may be retained, cradled inside the follicle until tipped out by water disturbance (Finlayson et al. 1995). It is also carried to new places on the feet of animals, birds and humans, and on earth moving or agricultural equipment (Tamar Valley Weed Strategy undated).

What is its history in Australia?

Typha latifolia is naturalised in northern Tasmania and is thought to have been accidentally introduced to Australia shortly after World War II (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001) There is a herbarium record for the East Midlands, Tasmania in 1948 (National Herbarium of Victoria 2008).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

As Cumbungi is part of the natural ecosystem and widely distributed throughout all states in Australia, aiming at total eradication is both ecologically undesirable and impractical. When planning control it is necessary to consider whether its presence in the area under consideration is a part of the natural ecosystem. However, if it is causing problems, it needs to be controlled.

Non-chemical control: Manual control: Physical methods of controlling Cumbungi include grubbing out small plants, excavation of larger infestations followed by grubbing to remove all roots and rhizomes, cultivation for small infestations with low water levels and cutting below water level to starve the plants of oxygen (Tamar Valley Weed Strategy undated). Removing emerging flower spikes from established populations limits seed production and spread (Brown & Brooks 2002).

Prevention: Preventing establishment of seedlings is vital to limiting spread of Cumbungi. T. orientalis, an introduced species to Western Australia, has proven to be an aggressive coloniser of wetlands of the Swan Coastal Plain and Jarrah Forest. Trials at Lake Forrestdale found that cultivating seedling populations late in autumn, when most seed has germinated, effectively prevented seedling establishment. Although water levels are at their lowest at this time of year in Perth, the ground was still soft enough for this to be successful (Brown & Brooks 2002).

Land management: Maintaining a cover of native species in fringing vegetation will keep light levels down and prevent germination of seeds. Juncus species will displace seedlings (Brown & Brooks 2002).

Fire: Case studies looking at control through low intensity burning of dense infestations of Typha species in North America, in late winter, have shown that under certain conditions, a 70% reduction in populations may be achieved (Brown & Brooks 2002).

Chemical control: Herbicides registered for use in waterways may be applied in the period between male flowers opening and six weeks after female flowers open (usually December–February), avoiding run-off or spray drift entering the water. Using a wiper minimises the risk of run-off and spray drift and applies an even amount of chemical on the target plant (Tamar Valley Weed Strategy undated).


Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

High temperatures (above 20 °C) and high levels of light are required for germination of Cumbungi seeds. This occurs mainly from December to April, with both germination and seedling development taking place in mud along the margins of waterways or under water. Once established, the seedlings send out creeping rhizomes which increase in length by forming lateral buds on either side of the apex (growing tip). In this way, the diameter of the plant can extend to 3 m within the first year. Aerial shoots also form but plants do not usually flower in their first year.

In established stands, new shoots may appear at any time of the year, but mostly in summer and autumn. Growth increases as temperatures rise reaching a maximum in late spring or summer when long water roots are formed (Parson & Cuthbertson 2001). Flowering commences in early summer and large amounts of pollen are released, with cross-fertilisation occurring on windy days and self-fertilisation on calm days (Finlayson et al. 1995). After fertilisation the lower female flower head increases in diameter and darkens in colour as the fruit matures. Seed is dispersed from December onwards. Seed numbers per flower-head have been estimated as 222,000 for T. latifolia and 682,000 for T. domingensis (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?

Found in all Australian states and territories.

What areas within states and territories is it found?

Typha orientalis is the dominant species in coastal eastern and southern areas and also in the irrigation districts of southern New South Wales and Victoria (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). It occurs in South Australia and in south-west Western Australia with isolated occurrences in the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia (AVH 2008; Gioia 2007).

Typha domingensis is native to all Australian states and territories and is the dominant species in northern and inland Australia, often occurring in habitats of an ephemeral (short-lived or transient) nature (Finlayson et al. 1995). The two species are sometimes found growing together. The development of permanent or relatively constant supplies of water by the construction of dams, weirs and irrigation systems in otherwise arid areas has assisted the spread of both species. In northern Australia T. domingensis is now found growing near dams such as those at Mt. Isa, Kununurra and Townsville and throughout the Burdekin irrigation system (Finlayson et al. 1995).

Typha latifolia is grown as an ornamental and is found in Victoria and Tasmania and there is one record of it occurring in New South Wales (AVH 2008; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where does it originate?

Typha latifolia is a native of temperate Eurasia, North Africa and North America. T. domingensis is native to warm temperate and tropical regions worldwide, including all Australian states and territories (Briggs 1987). T. orientalis is native to tropical and subtropical Australasia and South-East Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, eastern Australia (Hussey et al. 1997), Norfolk Island and New Zealand (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Typha spp.

Other scientific names (synonyms)?


Does it have other known common name(s)?

Cumbungi, Bulrush, Cattail, Common Cat's Tail, Miranda, Maranda, Reedmace, Giant Reedmace, Wonga, Yanget

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