The cumbungi or bulrush (Typha Orientalis, Typha Domingensis) is native plant to the waterways of inland southeastern Australia. It is a perennial rush with extensive rhizomes (root stock) and erect stems. The green stems are sheathed by two leaves on opposing sides, running the length of the stock. Broadleaf combungi (orientalis) reaches 2-3 meters high with blue-green leaves 6-20 millimeters wide. Narrowleaf combungi grows 1-2 meters high with dull, dark-green leaves 4-10 centimeters wide. It is an integral part of indigenous food living along the Murray Darling River systems, in particular for Pajong and Yuin people.
The plant grows in dense local patches or stands on the fringes of streams or bodies of water. Needing freshwater, it will not grow in water above one meter in depth. It has lot of small flowers in brown rod-like cylinders. The fruit is a capsule containing a single seed that breaks off with the stigma and a short hairy pedicel (flower stalk). As each spike matures, it will burst, shedding about 200,000 seeds, Flowering spring to summer.
The first written reference of combungi dates back to in 1836, when Major Thomas Mitchell, who was exploring the Lachlan River in New South Wales near Lake Cargelligo described it in his book. Changed land management and a loss of remnant vegetation has seen its demise. Its use is rarely understood beyond a small group of indigenous people.
For tens of thousands of years it has been used by indigenous people in Australia, considered at excellent fiber source. The plant is used for starch, which is used to bake bread. The root can be made into a delicious salad. Young leaves can also be eaten and woven into baskets for cooking other foods in a ground oven.