Wednesday 22 May
Beaked spike rush (Eleocharis rostellata)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Beaked spike rush fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Beaked spike rush description
A stout, robust perennial plant (2) (3), the beaked spike rush (Eleocharis rostellata) has proliferous clustering stems (3) (5), which form distinctive thick tussocks (4). The stems are slender, flattened and leafless (3) (6), with each individual stem ending in a single, cylindrical spike (6) (7). The flowering stems of the beaked spike rush are typically upright (7), while the wiry, non-flowering stems frequently arch downwards, rooting to the ground at the tip to form characteristic dense tufts (4) (5) (6) (7) (8).
The leaves of the beaked spike rush are made up of a grass-like blade and a closed sheath, and are usually arranged in a tuft around the base of the stem (9). The leaf sheaths are generally dark red to brown, becoming increasingly reddish at the tips (8). The small, inconspicuous flowers of the beaked spike rush are arranged in a ‘spikelet’ at the end of the stem (9). Each spikelet contains between 10 and 40 greatly reduced flowers (3) (8), which have very small, dense spines and brownish bristles (8). The blunt, oval-shaped scales of the spikelet are green or brownish, often with a darker vein in the centre of the scale (4) (7).
The beaked spike rush produces a large, single-seeded, greenish to brown fruit, known as an achene, which has a triangular or pyramid-shaped tubercle at the tip (6) (8) (11). The shape of the achene is highly variable (4) (5) (10), and the outer surface of the fruit is typically covered with a network of fine lines (7).
- Length: 0.4 - 1 m (2)
Beaked spike rush biology
A highly competitive species, the beaked spike rush often forms large single-species stands (8). It flowers from June to August or September, although the exact timing varies with location (2) (3) (6).Top
Beaked spike rush range
The beaked spike rush occurs primarily in North America, from Vancouver Island to Nova Scotia in Canada, south through the United States to northern Mexico. The beaked spike rush also occurs in the Greater Antilles and the South American Andes (2) (3) (6).Top
Beaked spike rush habitat
A wetland plant, the beaked spike rush occurs primarily in alkaline habitats such as saline, brackish or calcareous fens and marshes (6) (8) (11). It frequently occurs on tidal flats and along the coast, as well as by stream banks, alkaline seeps, lake margins and around hot springs (2) (3).
The beaked spike rush occurs at elevations of 50 to 2,400 metres (8).Top
Beaked spike rush status
The beaked spike rush has not yet been classified by the IUCN.Top
Beaked spike rush threats
The primary threat to the beaked spike rush is the invasion of its habitat by non-native plants, which compete with this species for space and resources (3). The beaked spike rush is also threatened by the development of coastal plains, and by livestock which damage this species’ habitat (2).Top
Beaked spike rush conservation
There are currently no specific conservation measures targeting the beaked spike rush.
A systematic survey for this species in suitable habitat throughout its range is recommended to help determine its population status (3).Top
Find out more
Find out more about the beaked spike rush:
Washington State Department of Natural Resources - Beaked spike rush:
Flora of North America - Beaked spike rush:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- A simple single-seeded fruit that falls from the plant in one piece. Achenes usually in occur in clusters.
- Slightly salty water, usually a mixture of salt and freshwater, such as that found in estuaries.
- Containing calcium carbonate, chalky.
- A plant that normally lives for more than two seasons. After an initial period, the plant produces flowers once a year.
- A small, angular swelling.
ITIS (July, 2011)
Carey, J.H. (1994) Eleocharis rostellata. In: Fire Effects Information System (Online). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. Available at:
Washington State Department of Natural Resources - Beaked spike rush Eleocharis rostellata (July, 2011)
- Coffin, B. and Pfannmuller, L. (1988) Minnesota's Endangered Flora and Fauna. University of Minnesota Press, Minnesota.
- Rhoads, A.F. and Block, T.A. (2007) The Plants of Pennsylvania: An Illustrated Manual. University of Pennsylvania Press, Pennsylvania.
Maine Natural Areas Program, Maine Department of Conservation - Beaked spike rush Eleocharis rostellata (July, 2011)
- Britton, N.L. and Brown, A. (1913) An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions - from Newfoundland to the Parallel of the Southern Boundary of Virginia, and from the Atlantic Ocean westward to the 102D Meridian. Volume 1. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York.
Flora of North America - Beaked spike rush Eleocharis rostellata (July, 2011)
- Heywood, V.H. (1978) Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Socorro González-Elizondo, M. and Peterson, P.M. (1997) A classification of and key to the supraspecific taxa in Eleocharis (Cyperaceae). Taxon, 46(3): 433-449.
Herbarium, University of Michigan - Beaked spike rush Eleocharis rostellata (July, 2011)
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.