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.


How does this weed affect you?

Typha latifolia is an introduced European species that infests waterways where it:

  • slows or blocks water flows in natural waterways
  • blocks drains
  • reduces water quality 
  • limits access to water for people and animals. 

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
  • alternate along the stem.


  • 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.


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


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

Similar looking plants

Two native species of Typha look similar to the weedy cumbungi:

  • narrow leaf cumbungi (Typha domingensis)
  • broadleaf cumbungi (Typha orientalis).

Both of these plants have lighter brown coloured female flower spikes. They also have longer leaves up to 2 m.

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. 


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: 

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

More information

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Successful weed control relies on follow up after the initial efforts. This means looking for and killing regrowth or new plants. Using a combination of control methods is usually more successful.


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.


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.


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

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

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: 15 (previously group J), Inhibition of very long chain fatty acid synthesis (VLCFA 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 except check for label for orchards and vines.
Herbicide group: 34 (previously group Q), Inhibition of lycopene cyclase
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 (summer, autumn)
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: 9 (previously group M), Inhibition of 5-enolpyruvyl shikimate-3 phosphate synthase (EPSP inhibition)
Resistance risk: Moderate

Imazapyr 250 g/L (Various products)
Rate: 3 L/ha
Comments: Boom spray 50-200 L water/ha. Hand gun spray to wet surfaces visibly, without producing run-off. i For irrigation channels and drains leading to recirculation dams only. Do not apply to water.
Withholding period: Not required when used as directed.
Herbicide group: 2 (previously group B), Inhibition of acetolactate and/or acetohydroxyacid synthase (ALS, AHAS 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 pest 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.

Reviewed 2024