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Scirpus L.

Kingdom: Plantae Rank: Genus Parent: Cyperaceae Status: Valid

Common Names:

  • BULRUSH - English, United States of America

Morphological Description

Diagnosis: Perennials of wet areas, usually with (rarely without) rhizomes; plants glabrous; culms (= stems) obtusely triangular, with well-developed leaves; inflorescences of many spikelets in open to ± congested panicles, appearing terminal, with 2 or more well-developed leaf-like involucral bracts; individual spikelets distinctly stalked or else sessile and in clusters; spikelets with many florets; scales of spikelets spirally arranged, awnless or essentially so; perianth of bristles usually present; achenes trigonous to plano-convex, without a tubercle.


Notes: In the strict sense, a cosmopolitan genus of ca. 35 species (Whittemore & Schuyler 2002). Bolboschoenus, Isolepis, and Schoenoplectus have traditionally been treated as part of Scirpus sensu lato (e.g., Mabberley 1987; Kartesz 1994). If treated in such a broad traditional sense, of species with bisexual flowers and terete spikelets, the genus contains ca. 200–300 species (Tucker 1987; Mabberley 1997). However, we are following Strong (1994), Smith (1995, 2002a, 2002b, 2002c), Jones et al. (1997), and Whittemore and Schuyler (2002) in recognizing the segregates of Scirpus at the generic level. This approach is supported by phylogenetic studies (e.g., Bruhl 1995; Muasya et al. 2000b) which suggest that Scirpus sensu lato is polyphyletic, being made up of a number of superficially similar but not closely related species. According to Yatskievych (1999), the “seeds of Scirpus species provide food for waterfowl, which disperse these bulrushes both in mud on their feet and feathers and as undigested seeds in their droppings.” (Scirpus is the Latin name of a bulrush)