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Name derivation:

Scirpus (L) – ‘marsh plant’



Scirpus Linnaeus; from 120 to 300 species descriptions are currently recognized taxonomically, depending on how many are accepted as being reassigned to recently described genera such as Schoenoplectus and Bolboschoenus.

Order Poales;  Family Cyperaceae

Monocot, perennial.



Plants emerge above water surface 20-30 cm and up to 3 m depending on species.  Grass-like leaves are long and narrow.

Rhizomatous.  Upright stems are trigonous (triangular cross section).  Rhizomes can respire anaerobically and produce alcohol when O2 concentration is <3% saturation Laing 1941).

Flowers are small and inconspicuous, complete (bisexual), and born on multi-flowered spikelets subtended by several leaf-like sheathed bracts (Cook 1974).  Flowers closely resemble terrestrial ancestors in the genus  (Gilly 1943).

Fruits are achenes modified to be buoyant with large intercellular spaceds in the pericarpand disperse via water currents (Sculthorpe 1967).  Fruits are an important food source for waterfowl (Ibid.).


Similar genera:

Schoenoplectus is not separated from Scirpus in PhycoKey.



Widespread globally  except not found in Africa and Antarctica.  Shallow freshwater to brackish habitats on lake shores, rivers and coastal deltas.  (Several species are terrestrial ancestors of aquatic species.)

Some species are a problem as weeds, e.g. S. juncoides in rice paddies in Madagascar, Malaysia dnd the Philippines (Ibid.).



Cook, C.D.K.  1974.  Water plants of the world.  Dr. W. Junk b.v., Publishers, The Hague.

Gilly C.L.  1946.  The Cyperaceae of Iowa.  Iowa State College Journal of Science 21:55-151.000000

Laing, H.E.  1941.  Effect of concentration of oxygen and pressure of water upon growth of rhizomes of semi-submerged water plant.  Botanical Gazette 102:712-724.

Sculthorpe, C.D.  1967.  The biology of aquatic vascular plants.  Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd. London.