Shoreline Plants  

Species: Juncus spp. L., rush
Juncus supiniformis Engelm, spreading rush
Family: Juncaceae

Rushes are grass-like plants frequently found in wet places including shorelines of lakes, ponds, and streams. Only a few species, like spreading rush (Juncus supiniformis) and bulbous rush (J. bulbosus) grow into deeper water. Rushes usually have round green stems, with clusters of brown, papery flowers appearing to come from the top or side of the stem. Identification of rush species can be difficult and often requires knowledge of the plantís habitat and details of the roots, flowers, and fruits.

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Leaf: Round or flattened leaves usually grow from the plant base with a sheath at the leaf base. Spreading: to 30 cm long. Sometimes hair-like when submersed, with crosswalls.

Stem: Usually round, (sometimes flattened) with pith-filled stems. Spreading rush: Commonly forms new plants at nodes.

Flower: Minute, papery, greenish to brownish flowers each have 3 sepals and 3 petals (tepals). Occur in clusters at the stem tips, although on several species a stem-like bract causes the flowers to appear to emerge from the side of the stem.

Fruit: Capsule containing many tiny seeds. Seeds often pointed at one or both ends. Spreading: capsules longer than tepals.

Root: Fibrous, emerging at the plant base from partially or fully buried rhizomes.

Propagation: Seeds, rhizomes.

Importance of plant: Nesting material, food, and shelter for many insects, birds, and mammals. Historically, rushes were used in weavings, and pealed stems soaked in grease were used as candles. Rushes continue to be used for making mats and woven furniture in Asia.

Distribution: Worldwide.

Habitat: Moist to wet places, although some rush species will grow on dry sites.

May be confused with:  Spikerushes (Eleocharis spp.), sedges (Carex spp.), and various grasses. Among these plants, only rushes have flowers with 3 sepals and 3 petals. Also, the stems of most sedges areNative American Use Icon triangular, whereas rushes are round. Spreading rush is easily confused with bulbous rush (J. bulbosus), a non-native plant which has smaller tepals. When not flowering, submersed spreading rush plants may be confused with water bulrush (Scirpus subterminalis) which usually has much longer leaves.

Photographs: Juncus sp., Juncus supiniformis

Line Drawings: Juncus effusus

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