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Totora (Schoenoplectus californicus ssp. tatora) is a subspecies of the giant bulrush sedge. It is found in South America - notably on Lake Titicacamarker - and on Easter islandmarker in the Pacific Ocean. The genus Schoenoplectus is closely related to Scirpus and sometimes included therein.

Some people say that totora plants are a main food of the Uros.

The Uros, an indigenous people predating the Incas, live on Lake Titicaca upon floating islands fashioned from this plant. The Uros also use the Totora plant to make boats (balsas) of the bundled dried plant reeds.

The Rapanui people of Easter island used Totora reeds - locally known as nga'atu - for thatching and to make pora swimming aids. These are used for recreation, and were formerly employed by hopu (clan champions) to reach offshore Motu Nuimarker in the tangata manu ("bird-man") competition. How the plant arrived on the island is not clear; Thor Heyerdahl argued that it had been brought by prehistoric Peruvians but it is at least as likely to have been brought by birds. In any case, recent work indicates that Totora has been growing on Easter Island for at least 30,000 years.

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References

  • (1998): The end of moai quarrying and its effect on Lake Rano Raraku, Easter Island. Journal of Paleolimnology 20(4): 409–422. (HTML abstract)



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