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).
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).
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).
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).
Plants that live for at least three seasons; after an initial period they produce flowers once a year.
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'.
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