Schoenoplectus smithii (Gray) Soják

Smith'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

Smith's bulrush is found on sandy lake and river shores in all New England states. There are three varieties, two of which occur in habitats with great daily or seasonal water fluctuations, while the third is found in habitats with little change in water levels. Smith's bulrush was named for its discoverer, Charles Eastwick Smith (1820-1900), a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

Habitat

Fresh tidal marshes or flats, shores of rivers or lakes

Characteristics

Habitat
  • aquatic
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Stem shape in cross-section
the stem is round or oval in cross-section
Leaf blade width
At least 0 mm
Leaf blade cross-section
the leaf blade is flat or rolled in at the edges
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 on one or more stems with no branches
Fruit type (general)
the fruit is like a seed, and surrounded by scales
Fruit length
1.5–1.8 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
  • there is no perianth on the plant
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
    0.4–0.6 mm
    Floral bristle color
    the bristles are pale brown to brown
    Floral bristle number
    • 0
    • 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
    • the bristles are longer than the achene
    Floral bristles
    the bristles are straight or slightly curved
    Floral scale hairs
    there are no hairs on the floral scales
    Floral scale length
    2.5–3 mm
    Floral scale nerves
    • 2-5
    • 7 or more
    Floral scale shape
    the floral scales are obovate (roughly egg-shaped, but with the widest part above the middle)
    Floral scale translucent
    the floral scales are opaque
    Flower number per cluster
    • 5-20
    • more than 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 on one or more stems with no branches
    Inflorescence crowding
    • NA
    • 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
    • there is no perianth on the plant
    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
    0.1–0.2 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
    1.5–1.8 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 only a single year or less
    Rhizome thickness
    1 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
    Leaf blade length
    At least 0 mm
    Leaf blade width
    At least 0 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 no leaves on the main stem, or there is a small tooth or tiny blade, or a leaf sheath with no blade
  • Place
    Habitat
    • aquatic
    • terrestrial
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • fresh tidal marshes or flats
    • shores of rivers or lakes
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Plant height
    2–50 cm
    Stem shape in cross-section
    the stem is round or oval in cross-section
    Stem texture near tip
    the edges of the stem feel rough near the tip
    Stem thickness at midpoint
    0.5–1.5 mm

Wetland Status

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

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

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

Conservation Status

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

Connecticut
unrankable (S-rank: SU)
Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. setosa

New Hampshire
uncommon (S-rank: S3), W (code: W)
Vermont
historical (S-rank: SH)

var. smithii

Rhode Island
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), state threatened (code: ST)
Vermont
extremely rare (S-rank: S1)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Schoenoplectus purshianus:
fruits pitted on the surface and rounded near the base and floral scales with a distinct midvein (vs. S. smithii, with fruits obscurely pitted and tapering at the base and floral scales lacking a distinct midvein).

Synonyms

  • Scirpus smithii Gray

Family

Cyperaceae

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Schoenoplectus smithii (Gray) Soják var. smithii is known from CT, MA, RI, VT, and is found in tidal rivers and pond shores with greatly fluctuating water levels. S. smithii var. levisetus (Fassett) S.G. Sm. is known from ME, and is found in tidal rivers and pond shores with greatly fluctuating water levels. S. smithii var. setosus (Fern.) S.G. Sm. is known from CT, MA, ME, NH, VT, and is found in waters with little fluctuation.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

8.  Schoenoplectus smithii (Gray) Soják N

Smith’s bulrush.  8a. Scirpus smithii Gray var. smithii;  8b. Scirpus smithii Gray var. levisetus Fassett;  8c. Scirpus smithii Gray var. setosus Fern. • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Sandy or silty river shores, including fresh-tidal portions, sandy lake shores.

1a.  Perianth bristles absent or vestigial … 8a. S. smithii var. smithii

1b.  Perianth bristles present, shorter than to twice the length of the achene

2a.  Perianth bristles 1–4, up to as long as achene, smooth or minutely retrorse-barbellate only at tip [Fig. 126] … 8b. S. smithii var.  levisetus (Fassett) S.G. Sm.

2b.  Perianth bristles 4–6, equaling to twice as long as achene, minutely retrorse-barbellate at least in the apical 50% … 8c. S. smithii var.  setosus (Fern.) S.G. Sm.

Variety smithii is known from CT, MA, RI, VT. Variety levisetus is known from ME. Variety setosus 
 is known from CT, MA, ME, NH, VT. Varieties levisetus and smithii are found in habitats with usually greatly fluctuating water levels (e.g., tidal river shores, drawn-down pond shores), whereas var. setosus is typically found in places where daily or seasonal variation in water volume is less marked.