DescriptionJuncus kraussii (incema) is a perennial herb that grows up to a height of 1.5 m and grows in large colonies where it occurs. Its leaves are tough, round and spine-tipped, and the sheath is shiny black (Pooley 1998). The purplish brown flowers appear between October and February and are topped by spine-tipped bracts.
The great physical strength and versatility of this rush make it an asset in wetlands. Juncus kraussii prevents erosion and also make a perfect fibre for weaving.
Distribution and Habitat
Juncus kraussii grows in colonies in KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Lesotho, and Mozambique. It dominates salt marshes where salinities are low (rarely exceeding 20 mg per litre); and often extends into dune slacks bordering salt marshes. It is also found in estuaries in the following areas: (i) shallow parts that remain fresh due to the mouth closure, (ii) fresh water seepage zones, and (iii) areas of strong seasonal inflow of fresh water into the system. (Allanson & Baird 1999).
Uses and cultural aspects
Juncus kraussii, among other rushes and sedges, is harvested and used for weaving traditional sleeping mats across many rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal. This rush is popular for making sleeping mats (amacansi ), baskets, beer strainers, conference bags and numerous craftwork products. The reason for its popularity is the fact that it is strong and yet easy to bend during craft construction. Products made from J. kraussii are not only used for day-to-day household uses, they are also sold to gain an income. This sustains the livelihoods of local households and contributes to the regional sustainable economic development. Some products e.g. sleeping mats are used in traditional weddings as customary gifts that the bride gives to the groom's family in a traditional Zulu wedding settlement. The gifts are collectively known as umabo, and J. kraussii has the highest status of all the materials used for making amacansi.