Tussock bulrush (Scirpus cespitosus)

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Tussock bulrush in peat bog
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Tussock bulrush fact file

Tussock bulrush description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassLiliopsida
OrderCyperales
FamilyCyperaceae
GenusScirpus (1)

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).

Size
Height: 7 - 35 cm (2) (3)
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Tussock bulrush biology

The tussock bulrush flowers from early June to early August (7). Fruits are produced in the summer from late June onwards (5) (7), and mature fruits have been observed in July and August (4).

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Tussock bulrush range

A widely distributed species, the tussock bulrush occurs throughout Europe and North America. In North America, this species ranges from Alaska, as far north as the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, east to Quebec, Labrador and Greenland, and south to the northern United States (2) (6)

In Europe, the tussock bulrush occurs from Iceland to Finland and parts of the Russian Federation, and as far south as Belgium and Germany (2) (6).  

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Tussock bulrush habitat

The tussock bulrush is commonly found in fens, wet meadows, and wet, marshy tracts of low-lying land along old beach ridges (4) (7). It occurs from sea-level to 2,100 metres (5).

This species may also be found in peaty meadows, along streams, in damp hollows on tundra, and in other areas where the ground is peaty or acidic (2) (8).

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Tussock bulrush status

The tussock bulrush has not yet been assessed by the IUCN.

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Tussock bulrush threats

The tussock bulrush has a secure global population and is not currently considered endangered.

However, in Wisconsin in the U.S., the tussock bulrush has been listed as ‘Threatened’ by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. This may be due to its rarity in the state, or because of unspecified factors which are currently making it vulnerable to local extinction (7).

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Tussock bulrush conservation

There are currently no known specific conservation measures targeting the tussock bulrush. 

In Wisconsin, this species is protected by law, which makes it an offence to process or sell any wild plant that is a listed species without a valid permit (7).

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Find out more

Find out more about the tussock bulrush:

  • Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H. and Harris, J.G. (2007) Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa. Available at:
    http://nature.ca/aaflora/data
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Authentication

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

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Glossary

Achene
A simple single-seeded fruit that falls from the plant in one piece. Achenes usually in occur in clusters.
Bract
Modified leaf at the base of a flower.
Inflorescence
The reproductive shoot of a plant, which bears a group or cluster of flowers.
Perennial
A plant that normally lives for more than two seasons. After an initial period, the plant produces flowers once a year.
Perianth
The outer envelope of a flower, typically comprising an inner whorl (calyx) of sepals or floral leaves, and an inner whorl (corolla) of petals.
Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
Tundra
Treeless, grassy plains characteristic of Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. They are very cold and have little rainfall.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H. and Harris, J.G. (2007) Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa. Available at:
    http://nature.ca/aaflora/data
  3. Stage, C. (1997) New Flora of the British Isles, Second Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 
  4. Montana Field Guide - Tufted club-rush, Trichophorum cespitosum (July, 2011)
    http://fieldguide.mt.gov/detail_PMCYP0Q060.aspx
  5. Flora of North America - Trichophorum cespitosum (July, 2011)
    http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=242357993
  6. Beetle, A.A. (1941) Studies in the genus Scirpus L. II. The section Baeothryon Ehrh. American Journal of Botany, 28(6): 469-476.
  7. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Tufted bulrush, Scirpus cespitosus (July, 2011)
    http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/er/biodiversity/index.asp?mode=info&Grp=20&SpecCode=PMCYP0Q060
  8. Michigan Flora Online - Trichophorum cespitosum (July, 2011)
    http://michiganflora.net/species.aspx?id=1165
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Image credit

Tussock bulrush in peat bog  
Tussock bulrush in peat bog

© Christophe Sidamon-Pesson / Biosphoto

Biosphoto
16 rue Velouterie
Avignon
84000
France
Tel: +33 (490) 162 042
Fax: +33 (663) 208 434
http://www.biosphoto.com/

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