red bulrush amongst green sheet

Whenever you hear the term bulrush, do you think about cattails? Oddly enough, most individuals do. However, there are a few differences between the two, although cohabitation isn’t unheard of.

Bulrush vs Cattail

Cattails are known to invade a wetland much faster than bulrushes, taking over large expanses in one growing season due to their mass quantities of wind-borne seeds. In growing season, cattails are more water reliant than bulrushes. Typically, the hardstem bulrush [Scirus acutus] can be used in wetland projects and recovery. Bulrushes are a lot slower than cattails in establishing and spreading since they proliferate primarily through underground rhizomes as opposed to seeds. Bulrushes can manage and defy long, dry periods better than cattails. There are some noted differences between cattail and bulrush, as emergent vegetation, but one noticed commonality between them is their own particular variation in transporting oxygen in the air to their origins, letting them grow in always flooded, but shallow water regions. Both cattail and bulrush establish quickly, (although as mentioned previously, bulrushes are still slower than cattails at establishing), and both may tolerate poor excellent water. However, bulrushes have a tendency to grow in deeper water, whereas cattails prefer shallow water.

Genus Scirpus

Bulrushes are many different wetland herbs (aquatic) in the genus Scirpus. They are annual or perennial plants which are medium to tall in height. Also called tule, wool bud and rat bud, this herbaceous plant can grow up to ten feet tall; they’re located all through-out North America and Eurasia.

They’re broken into groups of soft-stem [Scirpus validus] and hard-stem [Scirpus tabernaemontani] bulrushes, found at the Cyperaceae family. Both of these species are very similar in their appearance and discuss commonalities concerning the areas they develop in. Bulrushes are often utilised in constructed wetlands to treat agricultural NPS pollution and for the creation and restoration of wetlands. Among the crops used for this sort of project is that the species known as the Giant Bulrush aka ‘Restorer’. It’s regarded as a superior plant for this, especially in the south-easterly states. Now you might be asking yourself, ‘What’s NPS pollution and where does it come from?’ Good question!

NPS is short for ‘non-source contamination’, which comes from coal and metal mining, textile and photography industries, agricultural and urban areas, failed house septic tank drain fields in addition to municipal wastewater, storm water, and other land disturbing activities that detrimentally impact 30 – 50 percent of the waterways of America. An affordable and effective means to address and clean up varied wastewater is with constructed wetlands. For nearly 60 years, scientists have investigated and reported on the use of natural or constructed wetlands and their effectiveness and capacity to cleanse polluted water. In 1989, one such researcher called Hammer, defined constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment as “a deigned and man-made composite of saturated substrates, emergent and submergent vegetation, animal life, and water which simulates natural wetlands for human use and benefits.”

The bulrush [Scirpus spp] is just one species of plant that’s cultivated in shallow beds or stations containing a root medium like gravel or sand are successful in helping to regulate water flow. At exactly the exact same time, biochemical reactions occur on the submerged parts of the plants and within the wetland soils.

Bulrushes are reed-like and have long, firm leaves, olive-green, three-sided stems and drooping clusters of small, often brown spikelets located near the stem tips. The stem bases have a few inconspicuous leaves. The roots (or rhizomes) create edible tubers. The hints of the bulrushes blossom with clumps of reddish-brown or straw-colored blossoms that become hard seed-like fruits, during the period of April through August.

They are frequently found along the shorelines of marshy or swampy areas; such as wet areas such as the edges of shallow lakes, ponds, swamps, fresh and brackish marshes, moist woods, slow moving streams and roadside ditches. They can grow as large as 10 feet in moist soils, and in deep or shallow water, respectively, from 1 -9 feet of water. The bulrush is densely rhizomatous with abundant seed production.

The Scirpus species occur almost always under natural conditions in wetlands. They’re broken into groups of soft-stem [Scirpus validus] and hard-stem [Scirpus tabernaemontani] bulrushes, located at the Cyperaceae family. Both of these species are very similar in their physical appearance. Soft-stem bulrush can grow to ten feet and grows in dense colonies from rhizomes. Soft-stem bulrush includes a round (in cross section), mild gray-green, comparatively soft stem which comes to a point with no apparent leaves (just sheaths at the base of the stalks ). Flowers usually occur just beneath the tip of the stem, from July through September. They grow from the areas mentioned in the first paragraph, where lands are poorly-drained or always saturated. As far as ecological significance goes, the soft-stem bulrush can triple its biomass in a growing season. One area that benefits from this bulrush are urban wetlands, where soft-stem bulrushes can be and have been used to decrease pollutant loads carried by storm water runoff.

The hard-stem bulrush (tule, black origin ) is a perennial herb with an obligate [limited to a specific condition in life], robustly rhizomatous wetland plant that forms dense colonies. The stems of the bulrush are erect and slender, sharp to gently triangular; typically reaching 3-10 feet tall. Likewise, the leaves are slender blades which are sheathed around the long run. The flowers are brown spikelets. The panicle may have 3 to numerous spikelets, which are oblong to cylindrical. The nutlets are completely covered by whitish-brown scales and have 6 basal bristles. Bulrushes have stout rootstocks and long, thick, brown underground stems [rhizomes]. The hard-stem bulrush has a much greater tolerance of mixosaline [water containing saline] conditions, compared to soft-stem bulrush. It regrows well after elimination and is tolerant of fire.

Submerged portions of all aquatic plants provide habitats for many micro and macro invertebrates. These invertebrates in turn are used as food by fish and other wildlife species (e.g. amphibians, reptiles, ducks, etc.). After aquatic plants die, their decomposition by bacteria and fungi (called “detritus”), provides food for many aquatic invertebrates. Seeds of bulrushes are consumed by ducks and other birds while geese, muskrats, and nutria absorb the rhizomes and early shoots. Muskrats and beavers prefer to use this emergent wetland vegetation for food, as well as for hut construction, thus improving the wetland habitat.

Medicinal Purposes

Bulrushes have been and are used by many cultures for medicinal purposes

In the provinces of Shandong, Jiangsu, Anhui and Zhejiang, in China use the bulrush in teas, decoctions and extracts. The bulrush is thought to be effective and most frequently utilized to stop bleeding, whether from an accident or an internal disease. Additionally it is used to treat painful menstruation and postpartum abdominal pain. Evidence has demonstrated that bulrush extracts may also decrease the quantity of lipids in the blood, in addition to being effective in treating colitis.

Native Americans would parch the edible rhizomes (seeds), which are high in protein and very sterile, grind them into a powder for bread, mixed it with water, boiled it and ate it as porridge. The young shoots are considered a delicacy, whether eaten in the raw form or cooked. The bulrush may be used for syrup or sugar, used in a salad or eaten as a cooked vegetable. The syrup is dried out to create sugar and the pollen can be used to make cakes and breads.

They also made a poultice in the stalks to prevent bleeding and to treat snakebites. The origins can be processed and used in treating abscesses.

Boneset’ tea was a popular remedy used by Native Americans and pioneers alike to deal with overall aches and malaise. It was said to possess the best relief for the nineteenth and twentieth century influenza epidemics. It remains popular as a herbal tea and can be used as a tonic for colds, reduce perspiration and to promote bone healing. It’s the belief that it will indeed aid in bone healing that gave ‘boneset’ tea its name. Modern medical research confirms these benefits, saying that the chemicals of ‘boneset tea’ stimulate the immune system.

Some Native Americans would chew the origins of the bulrush as a preventative to thirst. They also used the ash from burned stem to place on a baby’s bleeding naval.

Stems are utilised to weave powerful sleeping mats, mats, baskets, purses, hats, skirts, sandals, drapes, temporary shelters, canoes and rafts, brooms and other family items. The plant has to grow in coarse-textured soil that’s free of gravel, silt and clay if the roots are to be utilized for quality basket-weaving. The origin was sought for the dark colour, which was wanted to highlight patterns generated in the making of a basket.