Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Leafy Bulrush - Scirpus polyphyllus   Vahl
Members of Cyperaceae:
Members of Scirpus with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Cyperaceae
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DistributionEssentially throughout the Mountains and Piedmont; absent from the Sandhills and Coastal Plain.

VT to IL and MO, south to northern GA and AL.
AbundanceCommon in the Mountains and the upper Piedmont; uncommon to infrequent in the central and lower Piedmont.
HabitatFreshwater marshes, beaver ponds, streamsides, seepages, swampy woods, bogs.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting July-September.
IdentificationThe stems are 3-4 feet tall, with a diffusely branched (spreading) inflorescence that is tan or straw-colored (vs. much darker in S. georgianus and S. hattorianus). The stems have 14-22 leaves (vs. 12 or fewer leaves in the two species just named). It also resembles S. expansus, but Leafy Bulrush lacks the red banding on the stem leaf sheaths that are easily visible on S. expansus stems.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Note that the genus Schoenoplectus has been split from Scirpus and includes plants with sessile spikelets, or with spikelets with a few branches (vs. open, widely branching inflorescences). Most of our Schoenoplectus species appear to have no leaves (exceptions are S. etuberculatus and S. subterminalis), whereas Scirpus taxa have well-developed basal and stem leaves.
Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS4 [S5]
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
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B.A. SorrieBeaver pond on unnamed creek W of Buffalo Bay, June 2009. AnsonPhoto_natural

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