Cumbungi (Typha latifolia)

Also known as: bulrush, common cattail

Cumbungi is a tall reed with distinctive cylindrical flower spikes. It forms dense infestations in slow-moving fresh or brackish water, and impedes water flows.

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How does this weed affect you?

Typha latifolia is an introduced European species. Infestations of cumbungi interfere with water flows in natural watercourses and drains, and can affect water quality and access to water. 

Three species of Typha occur in Australia including two native species native - narrow leaf cumbungi (Typha domingensis) and broadleaf cumbungi (Typha orientalis).

What does it look like?

Cumbungi is an erect perennial plant that grows out of the water up to 3 m high.

Leaves are:

  • grey-green
  • flat or slightly rounded
  • grass-like
  • sometimes spongey
  • 1.5 m long and up to 2.5 cm wide
  • opposite along the stem.

Flowers:

  • are present in warm weather usually through summer
  • the male and female flowers spikes are on the same stem with the male flower spike directly above the female flower spike
  • the two spikes are either touching or only 5 mm apart. 

Female flower spikes are:

  • dark brown or red-brown
  • 10–20 cm long and 1.5–2.5 cm wide
  • cylindrical surrounding the long stems.

Male flower spikes are:

  • light brown to cream coloured
  • 6–16 cm long and 1.0–1.5 cm in diameter.

Stems are:

  • up to 2.0 cm in diameter
  • cylindrical.

Fruit:

  • are a capsule with a hairy stalk
  • contain a round seed with tapered ends.

Roots:

  • extensive and branching
  • rhizomes are up to 2 cm wide.

Where is it found?

Cumbungi grows in the Greater Sydney region. It is also a weed in Victoria and Tasmania.

It is native to temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. 

What type of environment does it grow in?

Cumbungi can grow in a range of tropical and temperate conditions. It prefers slow moving fresh or slightly brackish water up to 2 m deep.

It grows in wetlands, swamps, drains and irrigation channels. 

How does it spread?

By seeds

Cumbungi produces tens of thousands of seeds. Most seeds fall close to the parent plant but they can be blown several kilometres by the wind. Seeds are also spread by moving water or in mud that sticks to animals or machinery.

By plant parts

New plants also shoot from the woody rhizomes which can be spread downstream by water. 

References

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Biosecurity Queensland (2013). Factsheet Pest Plant PP43, Cumbungi

Parsons, W.T., & Cuthbertson, E. G. (2001). Noxious weeds of Australia. CSIRO publishing.

PlantNET (The NSW Plant Information Network System). Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney. Retrieved 18/06/2020 from: http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Typha~latifolia 

Sainty, G. R., & Jacobs, S. W. (2003). Waterplants in Australia (No. Ed. 4). Sainty and Associates Pty Ltd.

More information

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Control

Physical

Cutting below the water

After the plant has flowered, the stems can be cut back to 15 cm below the surface of the water. If the water level is constant this can kill the plants.

Hand removal

Isolated plants can be dug out but all of the rhizomes will need to be removed.

Cultivation

In cool climates with frosts cultivation can bring the rhizomes to the surface. Exposure to frost will kill the rhizomes.

Mechanical removal

In irrigation channels and drains the water may need to be drained before using machinery to remove the plants.

Herbicides

Use herbicides registered for use near waterways. Boom spraying can be used for irrigation channels and drains.

Spot spraying is suitable in natural areas or for scattered infestations.

Herbicide options

WARNING - ALWAYS READ THE LABEL
Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website www.apvma.gov.au

See Using herbicides for more information.


2,2-DPA 740 g/kg (Various products)
Rate: 1.0–2.0 kg per 100 L of water
Comments: Hand gun, spot spray application. For use in irrigation channels and bore drains.
Withholding period: 7 days for harvest; 2 days for grazing/foraging
Herbicide group: J, Inhibitors of fat synthesis (Not ACCase inhibitors)
Resistance risk: Moderate


Amitrole 250 g/L (Amitrole T® )
Rate: 2.3 L per 100 L of water
Comments: Spot spray application. Apply during flowering between January and May.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: Q, Bleachers: Inhibitors of carotenoid biosynthesis unknown target
Resistance risk: Moderate


Glyphosate 360 g/L (Only products registered for aquatic use)
Rate: 13 mL per 1 L of water
Comments: Spot spray application. Apply to actively growing plants at early flowering.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


Imazapyr 250 g/L (Various products)
Rate: 3 L/Ha
Comments: Boom spray in irrigration channels and drains.
Withholding period:
Herbicide group: B, Inhibitors of acetolactate synthase (ALS inhibitors)
Resistance risk: High


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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline on 1800 680 244 or send an email to weeds@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Reviewed 2021