A grass-like, perennial plant, the tussock bulrush (Scirpus cerpitosus) grows in distinctive dense tufts (2) (3) (4) (5) (6). The long, smooth, erect stems are slim and often tapering (3) (5). Straight, fine, thread-like leaves cluster around the base of the plant (4) (5), and the greyish-brown, scale-like leaf-sheaths typically form a conspicuous build-up around the base of the plant (2) (6). The uppermost leaf sheath is green and has a smooth, blunt-tipped blade (3) (6).
The inflorescence of the tussock bulrush has several flowers, which are arranged spirally in a single, short ‘spikelet’ at the end of a flowering stem. The spikelets have reddish-brown to dark brown scales, which are small, thin, protective leaf-like structures (5). Beneath the spikelet is a scale-like leaf or a reduced bract (4) (5). The spikelets contain between three to nine flowers, each with a single orange-brown floral scale that has pale margins (2). The outer part of the flower, the perianth, is modified into six brown or white bristles (2) (4) (5) (6).
The fruit of the tussock bulrush is a smooth, brown or golden-brown, three-sided achene, which has a short point and is surrounded by inconspicuous bristles (2) (4) (5) (6).
Generally, two subspecies of tussock bulrush are recognised: Scirpus cespitosus cespitosum and Scirpus cespitosus germanicum. S. c. cespitosum generally forms smaller tufts with smaller, weaker stems and fewer flowers than S. c. germanicum (3).
- Height: 7 - 35 cm (2) (3)