Totora (plant)
Totora is a subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

 of the giant bulrush sedge
Schoenoplectus californicus
Schoeneoplectus californicus is a species of sedge known by the common names California bulrush and giant bulrush. It is also sometimes called "tule", but the closely related Schoenoplectus acutus is the more correct owner of that name.-Description:Schoeneoplectus californicus is a rhizomed water...

. It is found in South America - notably on Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is a lake located on the border of Peru and Bolivia. It sits 3,811 m above sea level, making it the highest commercially navigable lake in the world...

, the middle coast of Perú and on Easter Island
Easter Island
Easter Island is a Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian triangle. A special territory of Chile that was annexed in 1888, Easter Island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called moai, created by the early Rapanui people...

 in the Pacific Ocean. The genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

Schoenoplectus is a genus of about 80 species of sedges with a cosmopolitan distribution. Note that the name bulrush is also applied to species in the unrelated genus Typha...

 is closely related to Scirpus
The plant genus Scirpus consists of a large number of aquatic, grass-like species in the family Cyperaceae , many with the common names club-rush or bulrush . Other common names are deergrass or grassweed.The genus has a cosmopolitan distribution, and grows in wetlands and moist soil...

 and sometimes included therein.

The people of the mid-coast region of Perú have used totora to build their caballitos de totora
Caballitos de totora
Caballitos de totora are reed watercrafts used by Peruvian fishermen for the past 3,000 years, archaeologically evidenced from pottery shards....

, small rowed and straddled fishing vessels, for at least 3,000 years. The Uru people, an indigenous people predating the Inca civilization
Inca civilization
The Andean civilizations made up a loose patchwork of different cultures that developed from the highlands of Colombia to the Atacama Desert. The Andean civilizations are mainly based on the cultures of Ancient Peru and some others such as Tiahuanaco. The Inca Empire was the last sovereign...

, live on Lake Titicaca upon floating islands fashioned from this plant. The Uru people also use the totora plant to make boats (balsas) of the bundled dried plant reeds.

The Rapanui
The Rapa Nui or Rapanui are the native Polynesian inhabitants of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, in the Pacific Ocean. The easternmost Polynesian culture, the Rapa Nui people make up 60% of Easter Island's population, with some living also in mainland Chile...

 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 Nui
Motu Nui
Motu Nui is the largest of three islets just south of Easter Island and is the most westerly place in Chile. All three islets have sea birds but Motu Nui was also an essential location for the Tangata manu cult which was the island religion between the moai era and the Christian times...

 in the tangata manu
Tangata manu
The Tangata manu , was the winner of a traditional competition on Rapa Nui . The ritual was an annual competition to collect the first Sooty Tern egg of the season from the islet of Motu Nui, swim back to Rapa Nui and climb the sea cliff of Rano Kau to the clifftop village of Orongo.-Myth:In the...

 (bird-man) competition. How the plant arrived on the island is not clear; Thor Heyerdahl
Thor Heyerdahl
Thor Heyerdahl was a Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer with a background in zoology and geography. He became notable for his Kon-Tiki expedition, in which he sailed by raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands...

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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