Juncaceae2017-08-17T16:26:03+00:00

Juncaceae: Rush Family

“Reeds and rushes are round but sedges have edges.” Like many popular sayings, this has a degree of truth in it but it is not infallible. Reeds and rushes vary from having cylindric stems that accord with the saying to having grass-like leaves (oriented with their flat side towards the stem) or iris-like leaves (oriented with their edge towards the stem). Some have comparatively stiff leaves, others have softer, floppier leaves. A little attention to these details can help the identification process since the difference between the flowers and fruits can be subtle.

Common Rush  – Juncus effusus subsp. pacificus

Blooms:

May–Oct

Plant Height:

< 115 cm

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Seeps, shores, marshes, generally damp sunny ground

Notes:

The inflorescence appears to grow laterally from the stem about 20 cm from the top but, in fact, it grows at the tip of the stem and what appears to be stem above the inflorescence is in fact a bract—with only a slight color-band marking to show where the stem ends and the bract begins.  The plant is densely tufted—a key diagnostic feature since only 3 rushes found in the county have inflorescences appearing to be lateral and grow in dense tufts and, of these three, only two have green rather than blue-gray-green stems and, of these two, only one has an open rather than a compact inflorescence. Fruits are brown, oblong to truncate. The lower stems have a dark sheath around their base.

Spreading Rush  – Juncus patens

Blooms:

June–Oct

Plant Height:

30–105 cm

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Moist areas in grassland and woods

Notes:

Like Common Rush (Juncus effusus), the inflorescence appears to grow laterally from the stem about 20 cm from the top but, in fact, it grows at the tip of the stem and what appears to be stem above the inflorescence is in fact a bract—with only a slight color-band marking to show where the stem ends and the bract begins.  The plant is densely tufted—a key diagnostic feature since only 3 rushes found in the county have inflorescences appearing to be lateral and grow in dense tufts and, of these three, this is the only one to have blue-gray-green stems and 6 rather than 3 stamens on its flowers.

Western Rush  – Juncus occidentalis

Blooms:

May–Sept

Plant Height:

30–60 cm

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Moist areas

Notes:

This is one of only two rushes found in the county which have two bracts subtending the inflorescence, one much longer than the other and the only one that ever has compact, clustered inflorescences. Leaves are about ½ the length of the flowering stem, oriented like a grass, i.e. with the flat side towards the stem. The inflorescence is terminal, generally clustered near the coast and more open inland. Fruits are oblong to ovate and 3-angled.

Iris-leaved Rush  – Juncus xiphioides

Blooms:

July–Oct

Plant Height:

40–80 cm

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Wet places

Notes:

The common name points to one of the distinguishing feature of this rush, its leaves which are iris-like, oriented with the edge towards the stem, 5–14 mm wide, something which is true of very few rushes found in the county. The inflorescence is green or reddish, comprising a number  of fairly open clusters.  The anthers are pink, more or less the same length as the strongly exserted filaments. Fruits are oblong, abruptly tapered towards the beak.

Brown-headed Rush  – Juncus phaeocephalus var. phaeocephalus

Blooms:

June–Aug

Plant Height:

10–50 cm

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Shady or grassy places

Notes:

Like Iris-leaved Rush (Juncus xiphioides), this small rush has leaves which are iris-like, oriented with the edge towards the stem. The inflorescence appears terminal, dark brown to dark purple or blackish in color with anthers much longer than the filaments. Fruits are narrowly ovoid.

Sessile Wood Rush – Luzula subsessilis

Blooms:

Apr–July

Plant Height:

20–30 cm

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Open, dryish woodland

Notes:

Although the flowers resemble those of Brown-headed Rush (Juncus phaeocephalus), this is a much smaller rush with very different leaves, thin, soft and grass-like, unlike the stiffer leaves found in the Juncus species. The leaves are slightly hairy on the margins. This species comes in two forms, one with 1 or 2 dense heads and the other, more widespread, with a branched umbel-like inflorescence. There is a single bract subtending the inflorescence, 1.5–7 cm long, generally shorter than the inflorescence.