The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
New England Wild Flower Society
The conservation of Scirpus longii is fully sponsored.
Elizabeth J. Farnsworth contributed to this Plant Profile.
This bulrush is found only in the eastern United States, mainly along the coastal plain, from Nova Scotia to southern New Jersey. A wetland plant, it inhabits open, peaty swales, river meadows, abandoned cranberry bogs, and other areas with fluctuating water levels. The species is notable for its stout rhizome, and its tendency to form distinctive, circular clones. Periodic fires appear to benefit the plant by stimulating flowering and enhancing seedling establishment. Although the species has been declining due to habitat conversion, competition with invasive species, and an absence of fire (and is now considered extinct in Connecticut and New York), the good news is that botanists have recently discovered several healthy populations.
Research and Management Summary:
A handful of individuals and institutions are studying the ecology of this species, and conservation planning is underway for this species throughout its range.
Scirpus longii is a robust, perennial sedge that forms dense, leafy tussocks, with stems growing up to 1.5 m tall. The plants rarely flower, but colonize sites vegetatively and form circular clones by means of thick rhizomes. The species is also distinguished by its reddish-brown achenes (fruits), long bristles that exceed the scales, and its "woolly" inflorescences borne on relatively long pedicels that appear earlier in the year (June) than other bulrushes.
Distribution & Occurrence
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
Scirpus longii is an Atlantic Coastal Plain species occurring generally within 100 km of the seashore in wet meadows, grassy swales, sedge meadows, northern New England acidic fens, swamps and limnogenous fens, riverwash fens/marshes, and fresh water marshes, cranberry bogs, excavations, power line rights-of-way, and other disturbed areas (Rawinski 1990, Hill and Johansson 1992, Lortie 1996, Rawinski 2001, NatureServe 2001). The species is most commonly observed in sandy, shallow-water habitats with fluctuating water tables; soils may be saturated seasonally and undergo periodic drying. These habitats may show moderate peat development, with variable amounts of Sphagnum moss present (Schuyler and Stasz 1985).
Other plant species commonly found with Scirpus longii include: Aster nemoralis, Calamagrostis canadensis, Carex walteriana (Carex striata var. brevior), Carex bullata, Carex lasiocarpa, Carex livida, Carex stricta, Chamaedaphne calyculata, Cladium mariscoides, Eriophorum virginicum, Eupatorium album, Eupatorium resinosum, Gentiana autumnalis, Iris versicolor, Juncus canadensis, Lacnanthes tinctoria, Lophiola septentrionalis, Lysimachia terrestris, Muhlenbergia torreyana, Pognia ophioglossoides, Rhynchospora knieskernii, Rhynchospora pallida, Rosa nitida, Salix petiolaris, Spartina pectinata, Spiraea tomentosa, Utricularia intermedia, Vaccinium macrocarpon, and Woodwardia virginica (Schuyler and Stasz 1985, NatureServe 2001, Rawinski 2001).
|Scirpus longii is known from 9 stations in Nova Scotia (Hill 1994); 10 populations in Maine (Rawinski 2001); 1 site in New Hampshire (Sperduto and McCarthy 1993); 13+ sites in Massachusetts (one said to contain the world's largest population at several thousand stems [Rawinski 2001]); and 30+ sites in New Jersey (NatureServe 2001). The majority of populations are small, with only a few dozen culms. It is likely that the global population numbers on the order of 10,000+ stems.|
Conservation, Ecology & Research
The plant flowers only sporadically in the wild, and disturbance to the stem (in the form of fire, herbivory by muskrats and cattle, ice-scouring, or transplanting) appears to stimulate flowering (Schuyler and Stasz 1985, Hill and Johannson 1992, Rawinski 2001).
Wind is the most likely agent of pollination for Scirpus longii, as for most members of the Cyperaceae. Seeds may be dispersed by wind or water (Rawinski 2001).
Seed viability is high, and many seeds germinate without a period of dormancy, sometimes producing a second generation within a single growing season (Schuyler and Stasz 1985, Brumback 1989).
Schuyler (1963) observed that hybridization between Scirpus longii and Scirpus cyperinus can occur, but the two species are likely to be reproductively isolated due to differing flowering times, and morphological intermediates between the two have not been observed in the wild (Rawinski 2001).
Fire and periodic flooding may also assist the plant by suppressing the growth of less tolerant plant competitors.
A common invasive species, Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), however, has been cited as a threat to Scirpus longii where the two co-occur (Thompson et al. 1987, Malecki et al. 1993).
Conversion of habitat for development, with accompanying changes in hydrology and water quality of wetlands (due to ditching, impoundments, and diversions) where Scirpus longi
Nicholas M. Hill, Mount St. Vincent University Department of Biology (Halifax, Nova Scotia) has performed extensive research on Scirpus longii in Canada.
The Committee on Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has conducted ongoing research on the Atlantic coastal plain flora of Canada.
Volunteer task forces of the New England Plant Conservation Program (NEWFS, Framingham, Massachusetts) regularly monitor populations of Scirpus longii in New England.
The New England Wild Flower Society has successfully germinated Scirpus longii from seed. Germination is good when seeds are sown soon after collection (Brumback 1989). More recent studies at NEWFS indicate that seeds can germinate after a cold, moist treatment as well (W. E. Brumback, NEWFS, personal communication). Plants have been potted well from field-collected cuttings, and potted plants have sometimes flowered. Scirpus longii now grows in the permanent collection at Garden in the Woods.
Intensive land protection efforts are underway in Maine (The Nature Conservancy), Nova Scotia (COSEWIC 2000), and Massachusetts (Rawinski 2001).
Controlled, experimental studies of the effects of fire on recovery of Scirpus longii
Quantitative studies of the impacts of invasive species on Scirpus longii
Studies of the correlation of Scirpus longii occurrences with particular nutrient levels and other aspects of soil and water chemistry
Experimental research to determine ecological factors that trigger flowering
Studies to determine whether the species generates a seed bank in the wild
Barrows, J.S. 1938. Fryeburg, Maine: an historical sketch. Fryeburg, Maine: Pequawket Press.
Coddington, J.; Field, K.G. 1978. Rare and endangered plant species in Massachusetts. Cambridge, Massachusetts: New England Botanical Club.
Sorrie, B.A.; Somers, P. 1999. The vascular plants of Massachusetts: a county checklist. Westborough, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.