Cyperus papyrus (Cyperaceae)

Bulrush“When she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him” (Exodus 2:3 NKJV)

The ‘ark’ containing the baby Moses was a papyrus basket; in those days papyrus, or paper sedge, grew in profusion along the banks of the Nile. Moses was not alone in sailing, or floating, in a papyrus boat. “Woe to the land…that sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters” Isaiah 18:1-2.

A more famous use of papyrus was in paper-making. Strips of the pith were placed side by side with another layer at right angles; both layers were then pressed together to form a single sheet. The Greeks called the white pith inside the papyrus stalks byblos and the books composed of the pith were called bybla—hence the word ‘Bible’.

The papyrus has smooth three-angled stems and can reach a height of ten to sixteen feet, culminating in a plume of grass-like stalks, each bearing clusters of little brown flower heads. The general effect is often compared with that of a loose household mop.

The Flowers and Fruits of the Bible John Chancellor