Schoenoplectus americanus (Pers.) Volk. ex Schinz & R. Keller

chair-maker's bulrush

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Chair-maker's bulrush occurs in North, Central and South America, but in New England it is restricted to brackish marshes in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Although the roots and young shoots are edible, the dominant use of this plant was to make baskets.

Habitat

Brackish or salt marshes and flats, marshes, wetland margins (edges of wetlands)

Characteristics

Habitat
  • aquatic
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
Stem shape in cross-section
the stem is roughly triangular in cross-section
Leaf blade width
2–8 mm
Leaf blade cross-section
  • the leaf blade is flat or rolled in at the edges
  • the leaf blade is triangular in cross-section
Inflorescence position
  • the inflorescence appears to come from the side of the plant because the involucral bract at its base looks like an extension of the main stem
  • the inflorescence is at the tip of the plant
Inflorescence branching
  • the inflorescence is branched
  • the inflorescence is on one or more stems with no branches
Fruit type (general)
the fruit is like a seed, and surrounded by scales
Fruit length
1.8–2.8 mm
Leaf position on plant
the attachment points of all the leaves are at or near the base of the plant
Perianth composition
there are bristles attached at the base of the achene
Fruit cross-section
  • the fruit is biconvex or elliptic (widest in the middle and tapering to both ends) in cross-section
  • the fruit is lenticular (lens-shaped) in cross-section
  • the fruit is triangular to terete (circular) in cross-section
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther length
    1.5–3 mm
    Floral bristle color
    the bristles are pale brown to brown
    Floral bristle number
    • 1-4
    • 5-7
    Floral bristle relative length
    the bristles are between one tenth as long as the achene, and equal in length to the achene
    Floral bristles
    the bristles are straight or slightly curved
    Floral scale hairs
    the floral scales have hairs on them
    Floral scale length
    2.7–4 mm
    Floral scale nerves
    1
    Floral scale shape
    the floral scales are ovate (roughly egg-shaped)
    Floral scale translucent
    the floral scales are translucent
    Flower number per cluster
    • 2-5
    • 5-20
    Inflorescence bract angle
    the bracts are vertical or angled only slightly outwards
    Inflorescence bract number
    there is just one bract on the inflorescence
    Inflorescence bract position (Sparganium)
    NA
    Inflorescence bracts
    there is only one bract, and it looks like a continuation of the stem
    Inflorescence branching
    • the inflorescence is branched
    • the inflorescence is on one or more stems with no branches
    Inflorescence crowding
    the inflorescence is crowded together in one tight cluster
    Inflorescence position
    • the inflorescence appears to come from the side of the plant because the involucral bract at its base looks like an extension of the main stem
    • the inflorescence is at the tip of the plant
    Inflorescence shape
    the aggregations within the inflorescence are roughly circular (not flattened) in cross-section
    Inflorescence type
    • there are two or more flowers, spikes or flower clusters on a branched inflorescence
    • there is one spike or raceme at the tip of the stem
    Perianth composition
    there are bristles attached at the base of the achene
    Stamen number
    3
    Stigma number
    • 2
    • 3
    Style division
    the top two thirds of the style is divided
    floral bristle barbs
    the bristles have tiny barbs on them
    plantlets budding at flower bases
    no
  • Fruits or seeds
    Achene beak length
    0.1–0.3 mm
    Achene surface texture
    the achene is smooth (it has no detectable texture)
    Achene tubercle relative width
    NA
    Achene tubercle width
    0 mm
    Capsule relative length
    NA
    Fruit cross-section
    • the fruit is biconvex or elliptic (widest in the middle and tapering to both ends) in cross-section
    • the fruit is lenticular (lens-shaped) in cross-section
    • the fruit is triangular to terete (circular) in cross-section
    Fruit length
    1.8–2.8 mm
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is like a seed, and surrounded by scales
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is an achene (dry, seed-like fruit) without a tubercle (a swelling or projection, usually of a different color or texture)
    Locules in capsule
    NA
    Seed length
    0 mm
    Seed tail relative length
    0 mm
    Seed tails
    NA
    Tubercle height
    0 mm
  • Growth form
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Rhizome thickness
    2–5 mm
    Underground organs
    the plant has a rhizome (a horizontal underground stem with roots growing from it)
  • Leaves
    Auricle length
    0 mm
    Auricle texture
    NA
    Auricles
    there are no auricles on the leaf sheath
    Leaf blade cross-section
    • the leaf blade is flat or rolled in at the edges
    • the leaf blade is triangular in cross-section
    Leaf blade length
    25–200 mm
    Leaf blade width
    2–8 mm
    Leaf form
    all the leaves hold their form out of water
    Leaf position on plant
    the attachment points of all the leaves are at or near the base of the plant
    Leaf septa
    the leaf blades do not have transverse septa
    Leaf sheath hairs
    the leaf sheathes are without hairs
    Pedicel length (Typha)
    0 mm
    Stem leaf blade ligules
    the plant has ligules at the leaf blade bases
    Stem leaf blades
    there are fully-developed leaves with leaf blades on the main stem
  • Place
    Habitat
    • aquatic
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Massachusetts
    • Rhode Island
    Specific habitat
    • brackish or salt marshes and flats
    • edges of wetlands
    • marshes
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Plant height
    40–250 cm
    Stem shape in cross-section
    the stem is roughly triangular in cross-section
    Stem texture near tip
    the stem feels smooth near the tip
    Stem thickness at midpoint
    3–10 mm

Wetland Status

Occurs only in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: OBL)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
absent
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
absent
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
absent

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Schoenoplectus pungens:
uppermost leaf with a well developed blade that is several times longer than its associated sheath and stems with flat to shallowly concave sides (vs. S. americanus, with the uppermost leaf with a short blade that is shorter than its associated sheath and stems with conspicuosly concave sides).

Synonyms

  • Scirpus americanus Pers.
  • Scirpus olneyi Gray

Family

Cyperaceae

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

2.  Schoenoplectus americanus (Pers.) Volk. ex Schinz & R. Keller N

chair-maker’s bulrush. Scirpus americanus Pers.; S. olneyi Gray • CT, MA, RI. Brackish marshes. Reports of this species in ME, NH, VT in Smith (2002b) are based on putative hybrids ( Schoenoplectus ×‌contortus) and acknowledged as such by the author.

2×6. Schoenoplectus americanus × Schoenoplectus pungens Schoenoplectus ×‌contortus (Eames) S.G. Sm. is a rare hybrid in New England, and one that has been tentatively identified for some states where one of the parents ( S. americanus) has not been documented (e.g., ME, VT). The hybrid is morphologically intermediate between the parents.