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This species is accepted, and its native range is Tanzania.


Muasya, A.M. & Vollesen, K. 2015. Cyperus volkielloides (Cyperaceae), a new ephemeral species from Tanzania. Kew Bulletin 70: 53. DOI

We assess this plant as EN B2ac(i,ii) using the IUCN criteria (IUCN 2012). Mapping of the area of occupancy using GeoCAT (Bachman et al. 2011) shows this taxon to have an area of occupancy under 25 km2. At the seven localities at which this taxon was collected, it was locally very common in grassy glades within communal woodlands used for grazing and other natural products extraction. Such grassy glades are not uncommon within miombo woodlands, and we anticipate this taxon to be more widespread. However, due to the ephemeral nature of this taxon and its habitat, there is a short window in the year when it can be found growing. This added to minute size and lack of extensive collecting in this part of Tanzania may contribute to the lack of previous collections.
Africa: Tanzania, only known from Sikonge District (T4).
Seasonally wet short grass glades in miombo woodland, grey-loamy sand. Ephemeral wet soils dry at the time of collection. 1000 – 1050 m.
Morphology Culms
Culms less than 5 mm tall
Morphology General Habit
A tufted annual with minute roots, lacking stolons or rhizomes
Morphology Leaves
Leaves basal; sheaths to 3 mm long, reddish brown; blade 5 – 30 mm long and 0.2 – 0.4 mm wide, flat, glabrous, ligule lacking
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens 3, anthers basifixed, up to 0.2 mm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Style
Style trifid, branched to about 1/3 from apex
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Nutlet brownish, densely papillose, 0.4 – 0.6 mm long and 0.2 – 0.3 mm wide, linear to lanceolate, trigonous in transverse section, dorsiventral
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescence a dense capitate head, borne partially covered at soil surface, 5.0 – 5.8 mm long and 4.9 – 8.2 mm wide
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences Bracts
Involucral bracts leafy, up to 20 per peduncle, 40 – 80 mm long and 0.2 – 0.4 mm wide, glabrous, flat or inrolled to enclose the adaxial surface
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences Bracts Glume
Glumes 1.9 – 2.4 mm long including recurved mucro 0.4 – 1.0 mm long, 0.2 – 0.3 mm wide (between midrib and margin), acute apex tapering to mucro, glabrous, reddish brown with green midrib and mucro
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences Spikelets
Spikelets 3.2 – 5.0 mm long and 1.3 – 3.0 mm wide, flattened, with 10 – 14 distichously arranged glumes

Cyperus volkielloides (Fig. 1B) has the general appearance of C. distichus (Merxm. & Czech) Bauters (synonym: Volkiella distichaMerxm. & Czech, Fig. 1C), a taxon growing in similar habitats in the Caprivi Strip in Namibia and in southern Zambia (Hooper 1986). C. distichus, previously placed in the genus Volkiella, differs from Cyperuss.s. in its reduced spikelet morphology where each spikelet consists of a single flower which is subtended by a glume-like spikelet bract, and several such spikelets are distichously borne on a rachis to form a spike of spikelets (Goetghebeur1998; Muasya et al. 2009; Bauters et al. 2014). On the other hand, in Cyperuss.s., each flower is subtended by a glume and several flowers are distichously borne on a rachilla, but several species have a spiral glume arrangement (e.g. Larridon et al. 2011b; Muasya et al. 2009, 2014). Furthermore, Volkiella and other genera segregated from Cyperuss.s. have been found to be lineages derived from within Cyperus diagnosed by unique (autapomorphic) characters and are now back in Cyperus as infrageneric taxa (Larridon et al. 2013, 2014; Bauters et al. 2014).

This species is similar toCyperuscuspidatus, with which it shares an annual habit, digitate inflorescences (occasionally anthelate in C. cuspidatus), and glumes with a prominently recurved mucro. Usually, C. cuspidatus is taller than 20 mm but in unfavourable conditions is occasionally a depauperate annual (e.g. Gilbert 4945 (K), Brenan et al. 14823 (K)). Depauperate material occurring on Madagascan mountains had been treated as a separate taxon (C. waterlotii Cherm.; Fig. 1A). However, C. volkielloides differs in the number and length of the involucral bracts, which overtop the peduncle and inflorescence bearing over 10 spikelets partially covered by the soil. Nutlets of C. volkielloides are lanceolate to obovoid and smaller (0.4 – 0.6 mm) whereas C. cuspidatus has nutlets larger than 0.7 mm, but occasional specimens of C. cuspidatus (e.g. Hudson 79 (Uganda, K) and Festo & Luke 2472 (Kenya, K)) with broadly obovoid nutlets to 0.5 mm have been observed.

Extreme reduction in peduncle length where spikelets are borne at soil level appears to independently arise in Cypereae. Nelmes (1955) described a stemless species of Pycreus (P. acaulis Nelmes, now Cyperus acaulescens Reynders), which differs from C. volkielloides in having biconvex nutlets, noting its unusual habit. Stemless species grow in ephemeral savannah (e.g. C. volkielloides, C. waterlotii, C. distichus) and afromontane (e.g. C. acaulescens) habitats, but this phenomenon may not be as uncommon as Nelmes (1955) hypothesised.

Similar to Cyperus cuspidatus but differs in culm length less than 5 mm (vs usually above 20 mm), involucral bract length over 10 times longer than peduncle (vs shorter (half as long) than peduncle), and glume nerves not prominent and apex tapering to mucro (vs 2 nerves prominent and glume apex truncate).
Type: Tanzania, T4, Sikonge Dist., 29 km on Sikonge – Tabora road, 5°24'N, 32°41'E, 28 May 2008, Bidgood S., Leliyo G., Vollesen K. 7101 (holotype K!; isotype BOL!, EA!, DSM!, MO!, NHT!).

Native to:


Cyperus volkielloides Muasya & Vollesen appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Nov 1, 2017 Bidgood, S., Leliyo, G. [7101], Tanzania K000743773 holotype

First published in Kew Bull. 70(4)-53: 1 (2015)

Accepted by

  • Govaerts, R., Nic Lughadha, E., Black, N., Turner, R. & Paton, A. (2021). The World Checklist of Vascular Plants, a continuously updated resource for exploring global plant diversity. Scientific Data 8: 215.


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© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

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© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.