The popularly called Umbrella papyrus, for its shape that reminds of a small umbrella, is a species of waterlogged or very humid areas of Madagascar and precisely we find more in wet areas of the Alcázar gardens, in small ponds like those associated with the rough grotto walls of the Garden of the Ladies, forming part of a decor as designed to make us think of the water and the effects it produces in architecture.
It is indeed an aquatic plant related to another best-known species, the papyrus. Its ornamental use in European historic gardens appears to be explained by the romantic and orientalist fashion that began in the nineteenth century and continued into the early decades of the twentieth century. At this time, the taste for exotic plants that promoted the two colonial powers of that century –on the one hand the English with their botanical gardens and greenhouses and on the other hand France with its international exhibitions in Paris- had generated in European gardening a tendency to superficially recreate exotic spaces, that evoked faraway places, even ancient civilizations.
Oriental typologies of gardens were trendy, as well as Islamic, Hindu, Chinese, but also a new and idealized interest in antiquity and were not only Greco-Roman. So, the papyrus, and in its absence, similar plants as the umbrella papyrus, could evoke a landscape of ancient Egypt.