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This native perennial rush is ¾-2½' tall and unbranched, except where the inflorescence occurs. Most plants have erect or ascending stems that are stiff and straight. The central stem of each plant is light green, glabrous, and terete (round in cross-section). At the base of the stem, there are 1-2 basal leaves. The blades of these leaves are up to 12" long and 1 mm. across; they are medium green, flat, and glabrous. The blades are often recurved and rather inconspicuous; sometimes their margins are upturned. The glabrous open sheath of each basal leaf enfolds the stem at its base for several inches; it is initially light green, but later becomes light brown or tan, persisting into the fall. At the apex of each sheath, there is a pair of auriculate (ear-like) lobes less than 0.5 mm. long. These lobes have a thick cartilaginous texture and they are persistent. Each stem terminates in a branched inflorescence consisting of 6-60 flowers. This inflorescence can be either compact or somewhat loose. At the base of each inflorescence, there are 1-3 bracts that resemble narrow leaf blades. At least one of these bracts extends beyond the inflorescence. The umbel-like rays (small branches) of each inflorescence originate from the same point; they are erect or ascending and variable in length. These rays subdivide, terminating in small greenish flowers less than ¼" across. Each flower consists of 6 tepals, 6 stamens, and a pistil with a single style. At maturity, the tepals are 4-5 mm. long, lanceolate, and membranous along their margins. The tepals are persistent, eventually becoming tan or light brown. The flowers are cross-pollinated by the wind during the summer. The seed capsules are 3-4 mm. long and ovoid in shape; they become brown to reddish brown at maturity. Each capsule eventually splits open into 3 parts to release numerous tiny seeds. These seeds are small enough to float on water or blow about in the wind. Individual seeds are about 0.5 mm. long and ellipsoid in shape. The root system is fibrous and rhizomatous. This rush can develop densely tufted plants from its short rhizomes; it also forms larger vegetative colonies that are more dispersed.


Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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