• Ryan O'Hanlon

Species Profile: Spikerush

Eleocharis sp.

Spikerush

Species Profile


Introduction

There are multiple spikerush species, many of which look extremely similar. For that reason this blog post will refer to spikerushes as a group. The appearance is somewhat grass like, especially when stands mature and they typically have maximum heights around six inches. This is dependent on there growing conditions, so they can be shorter or taller from location to location.


Photo courtesy of Poor Farm Photography


Where does it grow?

Generally speaking, these plants prefer wetlands, ditches, pond and lake shorelines, etc. It often favors areas where water fluctuates, with a few inches of water during wet seasons and dry ground during dry seasons. It's not uncommon to see them in road side ditches that flood and dry multiple times throughout the year.


How tough is it?

These are tough plants, dealing with short term flooding or short term dry spells relatively well. There's often a seed bed developed, and when mature plants die the germinating seeds replace the old stock. Some species, such as Baldwin's Spikerush (Eleocharis baldwinii) are notoriously hard to control and inhibit the intended use for some ponds.



How is it beneficial?

These are one of the plants we always recommend for new ponds and lakes for erosion prevention. Their root structure is complex and hold soils well. When water's are high, they provide habitat for invertebrates and small fishes as well. All without inhibiting pond access.



How does it spread/grow?

Their most obvious method to spread is via rhizome/root growth. However, seeds are regularly produced and stand at the ready to germinate in the right conditions.


How to tell if from other plants?

Distinguishing spikerushes from other species is relatively easy. They may be confused with some sedges (Carex sp.) but 'Sedges have edges', while spikerushes are more grass like in appearance. The spikerush flowers are typically white, with mature seed heads being light to dark brown. To distinguish one spikerush from the other; a dichotomous key, time and expertise are often required.

What else should you know about this plant?

Spikerushes are probably our second or third favorite plant on site. They provide a green lawn aesthetic when matured around a shoreline and are tough. This group of plants is very diverse but beware as some species can become a nuisance, namely Baldwin's Spikerush (Eleocharis baldwinii).

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