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Found in abundance in the Okavango Delta, this beautiful plant is the papyrus.  Its delicate greens, rich reds and tawny browns meant it fast became one of my favourite plants of my recent trip to Botswana.

Cyperus papyrus (papyrus sedge, paper reed, Indian matting plant, Nile grass) is a species of aquatic flowering plant. It is a tender herbaceous perennial, native to Africa, Egypt.


This tall, robust, leafless aquatic plant can grow 4 to 5 m (13 to 16 ft) high. It forms a grass-like clump of triangular green stems that rise up from thick, woody rhizomes. Each stem is topped by a dense cluster of thin, bright green, thread-like stems around 10 to 30 cm (4 to 10 in) in length, resembling a feather duster when the plant is young. Greenish-brown flower clusters eventually appear at the ends of the rays, giving way to brown, nut-like fruits.  It forms tall stands of reed-like swamp vegetation in shallow water.


Papyrus has a very long history of use by humans, notably by the Ancient Egyptians — it is the source of papyrus paper, parts of it can be eaten, and the highly buoyant stems can be made into boats and is also used to fill mattresses.  It is now often cultivated as an ornamental plant.


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