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Eleocharis dulcis


Eleocharis dulcis (Burm.f.) Trin. ex Hensch.

Family Name: Cyperaceae
Synonyms: Andropogon dulce Burm.f., Scirpus plantaginoides Rottb., Eleocharis plantaginoides (Rottb.) Roem. & Schult., Limnochloa plantaginoides (Rottb.) Nees, Scirpus tuberosus Roxb., Eleocharis tuberosa Schult., Eleocharis dulcis var. tuberosa (Schult.) T.Koyama, Eleocharis equisetina J.Presl & C.Presl
Common Name: Water Chestnut, Chinese Water Chestnut, 马蹄, 荸荠


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
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Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Monocotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Aquatic & Hydrophyte
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Maximum Height 40 cm to 90 cm


Native Distribution From Western Africa, Japan, Southeast Asia (including Singapore) to Australia
Native Habitat Aquatic (Freshwater Pond / Lake / River, Brackish Pond / Lake / River)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical, Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal
Local Conservation Status Native to Singapore (Vulnerable (VU))

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Perennial herb up to 0.9 m tall.
Stems Aboveground stems known as culms are cylindrical, spongy and connected at the base in tufts (40-90 cm long, 3-7 mm wide). Underground, horizontal stems known as stolons form edible tubers at the tip which are globose, but slightly flattened and rich in starch. Tubers of wild plants are 5-7 mm wide, while those of cultivated plants may be 2-5 cm wide.
Flowers The inflorescence is a narrow, cylindrical spikelet (20-50 mm long, 3-4 mm wide).
Fruits The fruit is a glossy, yellowish or greyish-brown nutlet (1.7-2.2 mm long, 1.5-1.8 mm wide). The nutlet is obovate (egg-shaped with the narrow tip at the bottom) or biconvex (lens-shaped).
Habitat It tends to form large stands in both coastal and inland marshy areas. In Singapore, it was recorded in MacRitchie (2019) and Sungei Buloh (2002).
Associated Fauna It is the preferred local food plant for the caterpillars of the moth sugarcane top borer (Scirpophaga nivella).
Cultivation Plants cultivated for the edible tuber are propagated by planting the tuber.
Etymology Greek Eleocharis, marsh-favouring, referring to the habitat of the plant; Latin dulcis, sweet, referring to the sweet-tasting tuber.
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts (Edible Storage Organs)
Food (Fruit & Vegetable : The tubers are eaten raw or cooked and added to soups, salads or vegetable dishes. )
Medicinal ( The tubers are used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat measles, improve vision and cure eye diseases. )
[Others]: The culms are used to make mats in Sumatra. The tubers are used to produce starch.

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Lots of Water, [Remarks] (The soil should be kept flooded with 100mm to 300mm of water throughout the growing period.)
Plant Growth Rate Fast
Maintenance Requirements Moderate
Propagation Method Seed, Storage Organ (Corm, Rhizome), Division

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower Colour(s) Yellow / Golden
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Terminal
Inflorescence Type Spikelet / Compound Spike

Image Repository



Master ID 31073
Species ID 5462
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 05 October 2022.