Scirpus ancistrochaetus

Common Names:
barbed-bristle bulrush, Northeastern bulrush, Northern bulrush
Growth Habit:
CPC Number:
Profile Contributors:
Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
Fully Sponsored

Reference Links

ITIS - Tropicos - USDA Plants - Fish & WildLife

Participating Institutions

The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
New England Wild Flower Society

The conservation of Scirpus ancistrochaetus is fully sponsored.
Elizabeth J. Farnsworth contributed to this Plant Profile.


This leafy bulrush in the sedge family is currently known only from about 60 populations scattered from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, south to West Virginia. An obligate wetland plant, Scirpus ancistrochaetus grows in shallow water along the margins of sinkhole ponds (in the south), beaver ponds, sandplain depressions, backwater ponds in river floodplains, a boggy marsh, and even a wet depression on a mountaintop rocky bald -- broadly described as "low areas of hilly country" (Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program 1992). Sandstone or sand appears to be its favored substrate, and sites tend to share the common feature of a fluctuating water level. Although it is everywhere rare (with populations mostly under a few dozen stems), several new discoveries have been made with increased inventorying and an improved understanding of the habitat features with which it is commonly associated.

Research and Management Summary:
Several recent field studies of Scirpus ancistrochaetus have revealed much about its ecology and habitat associations. Extensive field surveys have turned up a number of new populations, and monitoring efforts are ongoing in a number of states.

Plant Description:
Scirpus ancistrochaetus is a tall (to 1.2 m) bulrush with leaves from 3 to 8 mm wide. Its short, woody rhizomes give rise to a flowering stem in in mid-June to mid-July, with a drooping flower head bearing dark, chocolate-brown florets with broad bracts. Each floret has six rigid bristles ending in recurved, sharp-pointed barbs -- the source of its Latin name, ancistrochaetus, meaning "hooked hairs." The 1.1-1.3 mm-long dry, one-seeded fruits (achenes) ripen in late summer.

Distribution & Occurrence


Conservation, Ecology & Research