Rushes

Saltmarsh Rush Scirpus-like Rush Heath Wood-rush Common Rush

What are they?

Rushes are common to abundant and often dominant plants in wetland habitats. Most species form tight clumps of upright stems with no leaves, but some have a more spreading habit.

Where are they found?

Most species are found in wetland habitats, from damp, grassy fields to permanent swamps, while some species are found in saltmarsh. A few species occur in dry, sandy fields and woodland clearings.

Identification

Identifying green stems with yellowy brown flowers is not every one's idea of fun! Rushes can seem daunting at first, but most species are relatively straight forward if healthy, flowering material is studied.



Soft Rush      Juncus effusus

Widespread and common in open, wet areas. Most common in degraded habitats, such as at Cape May Point State Park where it is increased by over-mowing. Flowers June to August. Stems are rounded, smooth, unribbed and full of white pith inside.
Soft Rush Soft Rush Soft Rush Soft Rush
Flowers
Flowers
Stem only lightly ridged
Pith in stem

Common Rush      Juncus pylaei

This species has often been considered a subspecies of Soft Rush in the past, so is often not mentioned separately in plant lists for the region. Common and widespread in damp, usually open, ground. Flowers June to August. The strongly ridged stem readily separates this species from the smooth-stemmed Soft Rush.
Common Rush Common Rush Common Rush
Flowers
Stem noticeably ridged
Fruiting head

Saltmarsh Rush      Juncus gerardii

(Black-grass) A dominant species along the drier back edges of saltmarsh, often mixed with Salt-meadow Cord-grass. Flowers June to August.
Saltmarsh Rush Saltmarsh Rush Saltmarsh Rush Saltmarsh Rush
Habit
Flower spike
Flower close-up
Fruiting spike

Leathery Rush      Juncus coriaceus

An uncommon species of wet areas, usually appearing in open rather than shaded habitats. Flowers June to August.
Leathery Rush Leathery Rush Leathery Rush
Habit
Fruiting spike
Fruit close-up

Forked Rush      Juncus dichotomus

Widespread in a range of habitats and often in drier soils than most species. Flowers June to August. A clump-forming species with stem usually extending well above the flower spike.
Forked Rush Forked Rush Forked Rush Forked Rush
Habit
Flower spike
Stem and pith
Fruit

Slender Rush      Juncus tenuis

Widespread and very common in dry fields and along sandy tracks, even in well-walked areas. Flowers May to September. Often forms dense mats of plants on dirt paths and trails and then looks like a shiny-leaved grass.
Slender Rush Slender Rush Slender Rush Slender Rush
Habit
Flower spike
Fruiting spike
Fruit

Toad Rush      Juncus bufonius

Widespread and very common in all kinds of damp situations, particularly in disturbed areas such as tracks, trails and waste ground. Flowers May to July. Can be very common on damp, open, peaty ground where it may form a dense, 'grassy' carpet. A low, spreading species, often no more than four inches or so high.
Toad Rush Toad Rush
Habit
Fruiting head

Grass-leaved Rush      Juncus marginatus

Occasional in wet places. Flowers late June to August. As the name suggests, the leaves are rather broad and grass-like.
Grass-leaved Rush Grass-leaved Rush Grass-leaved Rush Grass-leaved Rush
Flower
Stem (left)
and leaf (right)
Fruiting head
Fruits close-up

Canadian Rush      Juncus canadensis

Widespread and common in most kinds of wetland habitats, including brackish areas of saltmarsh. Flowers July to September.
Canadian Rush Canadian Rush Canadian Rush Canadian Rush
Habit
Emerging flower
Flower
Old seed head

New Jersey Rush      Juncus caesariensis

A scarce wetland plant, found at scattered locations along the eastern seaboard of North America. Flowers July to September. Vert similar to Canadian Rush and easily overlooked where the two might be growing together. New Jersey Rush can be recognized by the rather rough texture to the leaves and stem. Canadian Rush has a very smooth surface.
New Jersey Rush
Stem and leaf

Brown-fruited Rush      Juncus pelocarpus

A plant of damp edges of swamps and ponds. Flowers July to September. A strange species as most plants produce small bulblets instead of flowers, giving the plants a very distinctive look.
Brown-fruited Rush Brown-fruited Rush Brown-fruited Rush Brown-fruited Rush
Habit
Single floret
Bulblets forming
Leaf and stem

Scirpus-like Rush      Juncus scirpoides

Uncommon but widely scattered in coastal, sandy wetlands. Flowers July to August.
Scirpus-like Rush Scirpus-like Rush Scirpus-like Rush Scirpus-like Rush
Habit
Flowering head
Fruiting heads
Leaf node

Sharp-fruited Rush      Juncus acuminatus

A fairly common species of damp hollows and wet ground. Flowers June to September. Similar to Weak Rush but often growing a little taller, with a larger flower head. When in fruit, the tip of the seed head falls about level with the tip of the sepals.
Sharp-fruited Rush Sharp-fruited Rush Sharp-fruited Rush Sharp-fruited Rush
Flowering spike
Leaves septate
(note cross lines)
Fruiting spike
Fruit not longer
than sepals

Weak Rush      Juncus debilis

An uncommon species of wet, sandy places. Flowers June to October. A small species with rather thin stems and small fruits. When in fruit, the tip of the fruit is longer than the tip of the sepals.
Weak Rush Weak Rush Weak Rush Weak Rush
Habit
Leaf and leaf node
Fruiting spike
Fruit longer than sepals

Jointed Rush      Juncus articulatus

A common species of well-vegetated wetlands, particularly favoring the fresher back edges of coastal wetlands. Flowers June to August. Leaves are relatively short and curved. Stems have pale bands on them, making the plant look 'jointed'.
Jointed Rush Jointed Rush Jointed Rush Jointed Rush
Flowers
Leaves short and curved
Leaf node & stem
Fruiting head

Slim-pod Rush      Juncus diffusissimus

Uncommon species of well-vegetated wetlands. Flowers June to August.
Slim-pod Rush Slim-pod Rush Slim-pod Rush
Fruiting spike
Fruits
Leaf node

Heath Wood-rush      Luzula multiflora

A widespread species found in a wide range of habitats, but most frequently in dry, short-grass areas, including lawns, golf courses and cemeteries. Flowers late April to June.
Heath Wood-rush Heath Wood-rush Heath Wood-rush Heath Wood-rush
Flowers with
male parts ripe
Flowers with
female parts ripe
Hairy leaf base
Fruiting head