It is commonly called papyrus a herbaceous plant belonging to the genus of the cyperacee, whose botanical name is cyperus papirus; in fact hundreds of species belong to this genus, widespread in a large part of the globe, adapted to live in damp places, on the edges of slow waterways, or near ponds or marshes. In Italy it is often cultivated as a houseplant, choosing species of African origin, which could not withstand the rigors of winter; there are species that also live in our peninsula in the wild, in the humid areas of the country. They are herbaceous plants, which produce a thick root system, consisting of creeping rhizomes, generally covered by dark bracts, similar to scales; from the rhizomes develop some thin erect stems, which can reach 3-5 meters in height, depending on the species and climate in which the plants are grown; the stems are rigid, cylindrical or triangular, green in color, and at the apex bear a tuft of leaves (or bracts) of bright green, flat and ribbon-like or even filiform or triangular. In summer, at the apex of the tuft of leaves, small inflorescences bloom, consisting of greenish, inconspicuous flowers, followed by small dark seeds.
Species native to northern Africa, it is the best known, whose name is also attributed to most of the other species of cipero; it has thin stems, up to a couple of meters high, and a tuft of thin, thread-like, messy bracts, with a light and feathery appearance. There are dwarf varieties, which do not exceed 25-35 cm in height, highly appreciated especially for growing in pots. This cipero can withstand quite low temperatures, but it does not fear freezing, especially if intense and prolonged, and above all if the water around the rhizomes has the possibility of completely freezing. This papyrus is widely naturalized in most of the tropical and subtropical areas of the earth, becoming in some places a highly invasive species. In Italy we can see specimens of cyperus papyrus in the wild in one part of the southern regions. Flowering occurs in summer, and the small flowers are green-brown.
Cyperus Alternifolius (or involucratus)
Species of small size, which produces thin cylindrical stems, which generally do not exceed 150-180 cm in height; the apical bracts are in tufts not too dense, and have a ribbon-like shape, with a sharp tip, of a bright green color; in summer it produces small flowers, among the apical bracts, of green or light brown color, followed by the small capsules with seeds. This species of papyrus is native to the wetlands of Madagascar, and is generally the one that can be found most easily in nurseries, to be cultivated as a houseplant. In fact, although the papyrus can adapt even in conditions very unfavorable to its development, this species tends to be completely ruined if exposed to winter frost, and is therefore often cultivated in pots, so as to be able to move the inca containers to the arrival of the winter. Plant of easy cultivation, it is difficult to see it in the garden, even if in most of the peninsula it could be cultivated in full ground without problems.
Species native to the eastern part of Australia, very particular: this papyrus forms dense flattened tufts of thin bracts, similar to thick grass leaves, at most 35-45 cm high; in summer, between the bracts, thin stems are raised, which bear small tufts of tiny bracts, inconspicuous flowers. Very decorative species, it is difficult to find in Italy, even if its peculiar characteristics make it very interesting. In nature, these papyruses also develop in non-humid areas, and can withstand periods of extreme drought, unlike most other species. In some areas this papyrus is grown to prepare lawns that resist even in conditions of high humidity in the ground, where most grasses would quickly die.
Papyrus widespread in nature in Central America and the southern part of the United States; in the marshy areas these plants develop into large colonies, consisting of thin elongated, erect or arched stems, which form dense tufts, similar to thick and rigid grass; in summer thin trunks develop that carry the tiny flowers: each flower is subtended by a small brown or dark bract; It is the color of these bracts that gives the species its name. Not easy to find in nurseries in Italy, these papyri tolerate winter cold quite well.
Species native to the American continent, widespread in most parts of the globe, in wetlands; these ciperi seem to be able to develop anywhere, even in conditions of brackish water, or particularly rich in mineral salts. It produces large tufts of thin stems, at most sixty centimeters high, very similar to those of cyperus niger. The flowers appear in summer, along the stems, gathered in a sort of cylindrical spikelets, of green or brown color.
Very elegant species, with a delicate appearance, originating from Mexico; this papyrus is often cultivated also in Europe, but usually as a houseplant, as it fears the cold and cannot survive in a climate with temperatures below 7-10 ° C. It produces thin erect stems, about 45-65 cm tall, which carry at the end thin, short, ribbon-like bracts, which form a dense and compact tuft; in summer it produces small insignificant flowers. This papyrus is often cultivated also in Italy, and it is possible to find it among the houseplants; more appreciated than the common papyrus, as it is grown in pots and produces a thick head of stems, but little developed in height, giving a decidedly more pleasant effect than many other papyrus species.
Although it is a plant found in our country in nature, in the wild, typically the papyrus is cultivated as a houseplant, rather than as an aquatic plant along the banks of the ponds; this happens because most of the more decorative papyrus species fear the cold. This does not mean that cold and frost necessarily kill plants; indeed, most of the papyrus bears frost well, even down to -10 ° C, which, however, causes the entire aerial part to dry out, while the rhizomes enter a period of dormancy. The papyrus resistant to cold, once spring arrives, begin to sprout again, and develop quite rapidly. To prevent our papyrus from going dormant, it is sufficient to cultivate it in a vase, and move it indoors during the cold months. Moreover, these plants are very resistant, and the change in climate, from the garden to the apartment, does not generally disturb them too much. In fact, even if in nature these plants live in full sun, in the apartment they prove to be able to survive even in conditions of poor brightness, constant shading. The only thing you notice in these cases is a slight decrease in the brightness of the leaf color. They are not very demanding plants, as they do not need particularly rich or fertile soil, or even deep or sandy soil; any soil may be fine, which is generally mixed with sand, to form a heavier compound that does not completely dissolve in water. If possible, it is always good to move the papyrus plants outdoors in summer; if at home we keep our plant in a bright place, outdoors we can also place it in the sun; if on the other hand our papyrus lives in the shade, let's keep it with little sun even when we move it outdoors.
Water the papyrus
The main cultivation requirements of papyrus are watering: it is in fact an aquatic plant, which cannot survive for long if left in a drought and in a dry climate. For this reason it is necessary to water the papyrus frequently and regularly, leaving the soil always wet, well soaked with water, without worrying about any water stagnation. The fleshy rhizomes of the papyrus can in fact survive without problems even in conditions of perennial and constant immersion in water. If we are lucky enough to live in areas with a mild winter climate, we can plant our papyrus along the banks of a pond in the garden. If, on the other hand, where we live in the winter has temperatures of less than 5-10 ° C, then it will be better to grow our papyrus in pots. To guarantee the right amount of water for the plant, watering is usually not enough, especially in summer, or even in winter, when the heating system is active at home. For this reason, usually, the papyrus vase is placed in a large and deep vase holder, which is always kept full of water; in this way the rhizomes will always be submerged by at least 10-15 cm of water; in addition to this, the continuous evaporation of water from the saucer will also ensure good environmental humidity around the plant. Let us remember, however, to top up the saucer frequently, keeping the water level inside it fairly regular.
Propagate the papyrus
Papyrus flowers produce countless tiny fertile seeds; the plants obtained from seed, however, take several years to produce a rhizome of adequate size to produce a well-developed plant; this is why papyrus is often propagated simply by dividing the tufts of rhizomes. Proceed in autumn simply by removing the plants from the ground, and portioning the rhizomes, keeping a little rhizome and a little well-developed roots for each portion; the plants thus obtained are immediately repotted individually.
It is also very simple to produce new papyrus plants by cuttings; in spring or summer, a well developed and healthy stem is taken, it is shortened to about a third, maintaining the apex; the tuft of leaves is blunted, leaving only 2-3 cm in length. The cuttings thus prepared are placed in water, but upside down, or rather by immersing not the lower part of the stem, but the apex, with the tuft of leaves. Within a few weeks, a new small plant will be produced from the apex so prepared, which we can plant in a suitable pot.
Papyrus, a precious material
With the word papyrus, in addition to the plant, we indicate the ancient sheets used by the Egyptians for writing. In fact, even today, in most western languages, paper is named with terms derived from the ancient papyrus; this is because the ancient Egyptians used the stems of cyperus papyrus to prepare the sheets on which they wrote. The Egyptian society based its flourishing economy on a river, the Nile, along whose banks huge specimens of cyperus grew in abundance; for this reason, this plant was a low-cost, easy to find and use material. The papyrus sheets were prepared using papyrus stems directly; these stems were cut into strips and macerated for hours in water; later, made soft by this procedure, they were placed side by side and pressed, until they formed large sturdy leaves, the remains of which were found in the tombs of the pharaohs, and therefore still today resist the passage of time.
Papyrus: Diseases of the Papyrus
The Papyrus is a plant native to temperate and humid climates and needs at least 25 ° C to vegetate in the best way and begins to suffer when the temperatures drop below 15 ° C. That being said, it is easy to understand that papyrus at our temperatures is not particularly good at certain times of the year and therefore one must resort to an indoor cultivation which is obviously not ideal for the plant.
Cultivating the plant in the apartment you have to be very careful about watering and the most frequent diseases in these plants, and now we proceed with going through all the main diseases.
First of all it is good to differentiate between diseases and dysfunctions because a deterioration of the plant is not always caused by a disease.
One of the main causes of deterioration of the Papyrus is in fact the bad irrigation or an excess in the irrigation of the plant that leads to leaf rot in a short time. A constantly moist soil does not allow the roots to breathe, consequently these rot and the rot reflects to the leaves that begin to darken at the base presenting brown spots.
One of the remedies when you start to see the rotten leaves at the base is surely to suspend the waterings and cut the rotten parts of both the leaves and the roots.
Another decay that can be seen in these plants is the loss of streaks from the leaves which can become completely green due to a lack of light. An opposite symptom instead, or the loss of color by the leaves, is due to an excess of direct light that can bring the leaves to fade.
Still remaining on the leaves, another symptom of decay is the shrinking of the tips of papyrus leaves, a phenomenon caused by an excess of dryness of the soil and a lack of humidity in the plant's cultivation environment.
As for the insects that most frequently affect papyrus, aphids and cochineal are certainly the insects that most frequently attack this plant. These insects are very frequent in houseplants and often spread in greenhouses and in warm humid environments where there are different plants.
The cochineal that attacks the papyrus is usually of two types: the farinosa cocciniglia and the brownish cochineal. The first is recognizable by the classic white wool look. It is easily removed in a mechanical way and if the infestation is contained you can choose for a mechanical cleaning of the leaves.
The papyrus plant is linked to Egyptian writing, but also to Arabic, Latin, Greek and Aramaic texts. Papyrus covers
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