Bulrush - Scirpus lacustris - L.

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Bulrush - Scirpus lacustris - L.

Post by ThreeperMan on Mon 13 Jul 2009, 17:47

Botanical references17, 200
SynonymsSchoenoplectus lacustris - (L.)Pall.

Known HazardsNone known
RangeEurope, incl Britain, south and east from Lapland to Africa and Asia. N. and C. America, Polynesia.
HabitatBogs, shallow pond margins, rivers and lakes, usually where there is abundant silt, in acid or calcareous conditions[1, 17].
Edibility Ratingapple iconapple iconapple icon 3 (1-5)
Medicinal Ratingapple icon 1 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics

icon of man
icon of perennial/biennial/annual
Perennial growing to 2.5m.
It is hardy to zone 4. It is in flower from June to August, and the
seeds ripen from August to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite
(have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Wind.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils.
The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade.
It requires moist or wet soil and can grow in water.


Pond; Bog Garden;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves; Pollen; Root; Seed; Stem.

Root - raw or cooked[2, 85, 95, 183]. Rich in starch, it can be dried
and ground into a powder or made into a syrup[13, 85, 95, 183]. The
buds at the end of the rhizomes are crisp and sweet, making excellent
eating raw[183].
Young shoots - raw or cooked[85, 183]. Used in spring.
Seed - ground up into a powder and mixed with flour for use in making
cakes etc[85, 183]. The seed is small and rather fiddly to harvest and
Base of mature stems - raw or cooked. Somewhat tough[85].
Pollen - raw or cooked. Rich in pollen, it is mixed with flour and used
in making cakes etc[85, 183].

Other Uses

Paper; Thatching; Weaving.

The stems are frequently used for making matting, chair bottoms etc and
thatching[1, 4, 23, 85, 100, 115]. They were at one time imported in
large quantities for this purpose[4].
The pith of the stems is used in paper making[100].

Cultivation details

Succeeds in any wet to moisture retentive soil, pond margins and
shallow water in full sun or shade[1, 200]. Plants can succeed in
fairly deep water.
Hardy to about -25°c[187].
Some named forms have been selected for their ornamental value[187].


Seed - sow in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in a pot standing in
3cm of water. Only just cover the seed with soil[200]. The seed usually
germinates fairly quickly. Prick out the plants when large enough to
handle and plant out in their permanent positions in early summer.
Division in spring. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out
direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up
the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in
a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the


There are some named forms for this species, but these have
been developed for their ornamental value and not for their other uses.
Unless you particularly require the special characteristics of any of
these cultivars, we would generally recommend that you grow the natural
species for its useful properties. We have, therefore, not listed the
cultivars in this database[K].


This plant is also mentioned in the following PFAF articles:
The Edible Pond and Bog Garden.


[K] Ken Fern
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
[1] F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press 1951
listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been
replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).

[2] Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications 1972 ISBN 0-486-20459-6
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.

[4] Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin 1984 ISBN 0-14-046-440-9
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.

[13] Triska. Dr. Hamlyn Encyclopaedia of Plants. Hamlyn 1975 ISBN 0-600-33545-3
Very interesting reading, giving some details of plant uses and quite a lot of folk-lore.

[17] Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press 1962
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.

[23] Wright. D. Complete Book of Baskets and Basketry. David and Charles 1977 ISBN 0-7153-7449-4
Not that complete but very readable and well illustrated.

[85] Harrington. H. D. Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains. University of New Mexico Press 1967 ISBN 0-8623-0343-9
A superb book. Very readable, it gives the results of the authors experiments with native edible plants.

[95] Saunders. C. F. Edible and Useful Wild Plants of the United States and Canada. Dover Publications 1976 ISBN 0-486-23310-3
Useful wild plants of America. A pocket guide.

[100] Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide. Oxford University Press 1969 ISBN 0192176218
An excellent and well illustrated pocket guide for those with very large pockets. Also gives some details on plant uses.

[115] Johnson. C. P. The Useful Plants of Great Britain. 0
Written about a hundred years ago, but still a very good guide to the useful plants of Britain.

[183] Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications 1990 ISBN 0-9628087-0-9
Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food
plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N.
American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other
nurseries from around the world.

[187] Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Perennials Volumes 1 and 2. Pan Books 1991 ISBN 0-330-30936-9
of over 3,000 species and cultivars of ornamental plants together with
brief cultivation notes, details of habitat etc.

[200] Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press 1992 ISBN 0-333-47494-5
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

[218] Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. 1985 ISBN 0-917256-20-4
of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their
uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents.
Heavy going if you are not into the subject.

[240] Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement). Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi. 1986
terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of
references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for
the casual reader.

(C) Plants For A Future, 1996-2008.
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