Beaked rush (Rhynchospora alba)

Beaked rush

Top facts

  • The beaked rush is found up to elevations of 2,000 metres.
  • The large range of the beaked rush encompasses the United States, Canada and Eurasia, as well as certain areas in the West Indies and South America.
  • The beaked rush grows in wet, nutrient-poor soil.
  • The growing season of the beaked rush runs between summer and autumn.
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Beaked rush fact file

Beaked rush description

GenusRhynchospora (1)

The beaked rush (Rhynchospora alba) is a plant species that grows in dense tufts (3). The stems of this species are hollow, slender and have a triangular cross-section (3) (4). The inflorescences may be made up of singular flowers or clusters of two or three and are widely spaced from each other along the stems (2). The inflorescences are white at first, becoming pale brown with a white or pink tinge over time, and those located at the tip of the stem are usually longer than those growing from other areas on the stem (3). The pale brown fruit of the beaked rush is egg-shaped (3) and the leaves are flat (4), elongated and straw-coloured (3).

Also known as
white beak-rush, white beaksedge, white beak-sedge, white-beaked sedge.
Dichromena alba, Mariscus albus, Phaeocephalum album, Rhynchospora alba f. laeviseta, Rhynchospora alba var. kiusiana, Rhynchospora luquillensis, Schoenus albus, Scirpus albus, Triodon albus.
Height: 6 - 75 cm (2)
Inflorescence width: 1.5 - 2.5 cm (2)

Beaked rush biology

Very little is known about the biology of the beaked rush, although it is known to be a perennial herb, meaning that individuals of this species live for over two years and the aerial parts of the plant die after each growing season (2) (3) (5). The growing season of this species runs from summer to autumn (2).


Beaked rush range

The large range of the beaked rush extends throughout Canada, the United States and Eurasia. The most southerly populations of this plant species occur in Puerto Rico and South America (2) (3).


Beaked rush habitat

The beaked rush is found in sub-montane and sub-alpine (3) bogs, fens and heaths (2) (3) (5) with nitrogen-poor, wet soil (3). This species is known to occur up to elevations of 2,000 metres (2).


Beaked rush status

The beaked rush has not yet been assessed by the IUCN.


Beaked rush threats

The main threat to the beaked rush is habitat loss which is thought to have reduced various populations. Conversion of previously suitable habitat for agriculture, wetland drainage, peat extraction and afforestation have all contributed to the decline of this species throughout its range (5) (6) and have resulted in some populations becoming fragmented. Succession and detrimental forest management practices may have also negatively affected certain populations (6).

Climate change may pose a threat to the beaked rush in the future. This species requires wetland habitats which may begin to desiccate as weather patterns change (6).


Beaked rush conservation

There are not currently known to be any conservation measures in place for the beaked rush, although it is listed as threatened in Illinois in the United States and is thought to be locally extinct in Tennessee (7).


Find out more

Find out more about the beaked rush:

Find out more about plant conservation in North America:



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Wetland with alkaline, neutral or only slightly acidic peaty soil. The alkalinity arises due to ground water seeping through calcareous rocks (rocks containing calcium carbonate).
A small, non-woody, seed bearing plant in which all the aerial parts die back at the end of each growing season.
The reproductive shoot of a plant, which bears a group or cluster of flowers.
Of mountains, or growing in mountains.
A plant that normally lives for more than two years. After an initial period, the plant usually produces flowers once a year.


  1. Catalogue of Life (April, 2014)
  2. Flora of North America - Rhynchospora alba (April, 2014)
  3. Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia - Rhynchospora alba (April, 2014)
  4. New England Wild Flower Society - Rhynchospora alba (April, 2014)
  5. Online Atlas of the British Fauna and Flora - Rhynchospora alba (April, 2014)
  6. Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program - White beak-rush (April, 2014)
  7. United States Department of Agriculture - Rhynchospora alba (April, 2014)

Image credit

Beaked rush  
Beaked rush

© Franck Renard / Biosphoto

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