Bulrush (Typha latifolia)

Bulrush flower male and female
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Bulrush fact file

Bulrush description

GenusTypha (1)

The bulrush was termed 'reedmace' by botanists until the 1970s, but the common English name 'bulrush’'has since been accepted (4). This robust species grows up to 2.5 m in height, and has linear leaves (2). The most characteristic feature of this plant, however, is the distinctive, dark brown busby-like flowering head (4), known as a 'spadix' (2). The individual flowers are tiny, closely packed and surrounded by slender hairs; female flowers, which produce seeds, are situated towards the bottom of the spadix, the male flowers are located towards the top, and in this species the male and female regions of the spadix are touching (2).

Also known as
Height: 1.5 - 2.5 m (2)
Leaf width: 8 - 20 mm (2)

Bulrush biology

The bulrush is a perennial species (3), which flowers in June and July (5); the seed heads begin to break up in autumn, and the downy seeds are dispersed by the wind (6). The bulrush colonises new sites in this way, after which it spreads by vegetative reproduction(3). The flowering spikes may persist until November (1).

There have been very few uses of the bulrush in Britain, however in Nevada (USA) the Paiute Indians based their whole economy on this species; the yellow pollen was used as flour, and the stems and leaves were used to make boats (4).


Bulrush range

The bulrush is widespread in Britain, but is less common in the north and west (2). It seems to have increased in frequency during the 20th Century and is more common in Scotland, Wales and northern England than it was in the 1960s; the reasons for this increase are not yet clear (3). It has a broad global distribution, being found from the Arctic Circle to 30°S, with the exception of central and southern Africa, south Asia, Australia and Polynesia (2).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Bulrush habitat

Grows on mud or in shallow water at the margins of lakes, ditches, ponds and canals, and less commonly beside streams and rivers. It shows a preference for sites that are rich in nutrients (3).


Bulrush status

Common and widespread (3).


Bulrush threats

Not threatened at present.


Bulrush conservation

Conservation action is not needed for this common species. Plantlife has included the bulrush in its Common Plant Survey. This survey aims to determine the status of 65 common plant species in Britain, in order to understand how these species are faring in the countryside and to effectively monitor changes in their populations (7).

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Find out more

For more information on British plants and their conservation see Plantlife- the wild plant conservation charity:
For more on the Plantlife Common Plants Survey see:
Visit the website of the Botanical Society of the British Isles at:



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: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk


Plants that live for at least three seasons; after an initial period they produce flowers once a year.
Vegetative reproduction
Type of asexual reproduction (reproduction without recombination of genetic material) that results in the propagation of plants using only the vegetative tissues such as leaves or stems. The resulting plant is genetically identical to the original plant. A well-known example of this is the reproduction of strawberry plants from 'runners'.


  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (Feb 2003): http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
  2. Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G. & Moore, D.M. (1987) Flora of the British Isles. 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  3. Preston, C.D., Pearman, D.A. & Dines, T.D. (2002) The New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Mabey, R. (1996) Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London.
  5. Plantlife: common plant survey species (Feb 2003): http://www.plantlife.org.uk/html/commun_com_plant_list.htm
  6. Ulster Museum- Flora of Northern Ireland (Feb 2003): http://www.ulstermuseum.org.uk/flora/default.htm?item=2369
  7. Plantlife: common plant survey information (Feb 2003): http://www.plantlife.org.uk/html/commun_survey_intro.htm

Image credit

Bulrush flower male and female  
Bulrush flower male and female

© Geoff Dore / naturepl.com

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