Eleocharis dulcis (Burm.f.) Trinius ex Henschel

Eleocharis dulcis (Burm.f.) Trinius ex Henschel




Eleocharis plantaginea Roemer & Schultes, Eleocharis tuberosa Roemer & Schultes, Heleocharis plantaginoidea W.F. Wight.

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Tike.
English Chinese water chestnut.
Indonesia Teki (Indonesian), peperetan (Javanese), babawangan (Sundanese).
Philippines Apulid (Tagalog, Bikol), pagappo (Ibanag), buslig (Bisaya,Ilokano).
Cambodia Mëm phlông.
Thailand Haeo (General), haeo-chin (Central).
Vietnam M[ax] th[af]y, n[aw]n ng[oj]t, n[aw]ng.

Geographical Distributions

Eleocharis dulcis is a widespread variable species of the Old World tropics, distributed from tropical West Africa and Madagascar through India eastwards to south-eastern China, Japan, Southeast Asia, northern Australia, Micronesia and Melanesia.


E. dulcis is a perennial, rhizomatous, semi-aquatic herb that often grown as an annual crop. The rhizome is short with elongated stolons where each one is often terminates in a zoned, depressed spherical and brownish to blackish corm. It is 1-4 cm in diametre.

The stem is erect, cylindrical, tufted, measures 40-200 cm tall, measuring 3-10 mm in diametre, longitudinally striate and with distinctly transversely septate. The intersepta is 5-12 mm long, hollow, smooth and greyish to glossy dark green.

The leaves are reduced to some bladeless basal sheaths, measure 3-20 cm long, membranous, oblique or truncate at the apex and reddish brown to purple.

The inflorescence is a single, terminal, with many-flowered spikelet, cylindrical, measuring 1.5-6.0 cm x 3-6 cm, as thick as or somewhat thicker than the stem and obtuse to acute at the apex. The glumes are numerous, oblong, measuring 4.0-6.5 mm x 1.7-3.2 mm and with densely imbricate. The flowers are bisexual, with perianth of 6-8, slender, unequal and with white to brown bristles. There are 3 stamens with linear anthers and measure 2-3 mm long. The style is 7-8 mm long with 2-3-fid while the enlarged base persistent in fruit.

The fruit is an obovoid nut (achene), measuring 1.5-2.2 mm x 1.2-1.8 mm and shiny yellow to brown.

Ecology / Cultivation

E. dulcis occurs in open places both in salt or brackish and in freshwater swamps, often forming pure stands surrounding the open water, from sea level up to 1350 m altitude and as far as 40°N latitude in China. A long warm growing season with at least 220 frost-free days is needed for plant growth. The corms will only sprout at soil temperatures above 14°C. The field should be kept inundated for at least 6 months. The preferred soils are rich clay or muck soils with a pH of 6.9-7.3. E. dulcis can be grown successfully in slightly more acid soils provided that these are limed.

Line Drawing / Photograph



  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 9: Plants yielding non-seed carbohydrates.