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Common names: Bullrush, Cumbubgi Cat-tails
Kaurna name: Minnokorra / warnpa
Taxonomic name: Typha species
Habitat: Creeks, rivers and wetlands
Form: Tall grass-like with tall flowering spikes to 3 metres
Flowering Time: Summer
Cautions: If you’re allergic to pollens, its not a good idea to eat the pollen. As Cumbungi is a heavy feeder, it may be contaminated if foraged in areas of heavy agricultural runoff.
Cumbungi is a perennial plant of rivers, creeks and wetlands. Its reedy growth pattern helps to slow down and filter water and its tall leaves provide a hiding place for many animals and insects. There are,mostly, two varieties that you will come across in Australia, they are – Narrow Leaf Cumbungi (Typha domingensis) and Broadleaf Cumbungi (Typha orientalis).
The long leaves (up to 1.5 metres) Leaves are 1.5 m long and up to 25 mm wide are tough and fibrous. Female flower spikes 10–20 cm long and 15–25 mm wide and either dark brown or red-brown and provide masses of edible pollen in Summer.
Female flower spikes provide masses of edible pollen in Summer. When they dry, the fluffy down that remains makes and excellent tinder and a temporary covering for wounds.
Thick rhizomes that are about 20 mm wide are the main food sourced from Cumbungi, containing much starch and many sugars. They can have the skin removed and be chewed fresh or roasted or steamed to make a starchy meal. Roasting in ashes adds many extra minerals and nutrients to the cooked food. The rhizomes are best gathered in Autumn when the plant goes dormant. It has been laying up its energy reserves for dormancy and contains the maximum amount of starch and nutrition. There are also records of the rhizomes being ground and made into floury cakes.
The roots can also be eaten. I like to scrub them off and eat them fresh.
Cumbungi sourced in suburbia may be contaminated with accumulated toxins from runoff.