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Olney's Bulrush
Schoenoplectus americanus

About Olney's Bulrush (Schoenoplectus americanus) Schoenoplectus americanus (syn. Scirpus americanus) is a species of flowering plant in the sedge family known by the common names chairmaker's bulrush and Olney's three-square bulrush. It is native to the Americas, where it is known from Alaska to Nova Scotia and all the way into southern South America; it is most common along the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States and in parts of the western states. It grows in many types of coastal and inland wetland habitat, as well as sagebrush, desert scrub, chaparral, and plains. This rhizomatous perennial herb easily exceeds two meters in height. The stiff stems are sharply three-angled and usually very concave between the edges. Each plant has three or fewer leaves which are short and narrow. The inflorescence is a small head of several spikelets which may be brown to bright orange, red, purplish, or pale and translucent. They have hairy edges. The fruit is a brown achene. The plant reproduces sexually by seed and colonies spread via vegetative reproduction, sprouting from the rhizomes. This plant, particularly the rhizomes, are a food source of muskrat, nutria, and other animals; it is strongly favored by the snow goose in its wintering grounds.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
3.5 - 7 ft (1.1 - 2.1 m)

Flower Color
Orange, Purple, Red, Brown

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Marshes and ponds


Elevation ?
-271' - 7679'

Annual Precip. ?
1.9" - 67.6"

Summer Precip. ?
0.15" - 2.64"

Coldest Month ?
25.7° F - 61.1° F

Hottest Month ?
55.4° F - 90.6° F

Humidity ?
0.37 vpd - 48.80 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerant of a variety of soils as long as sufficient moisture is available

Fast, Medium, Slow, Standing

Landscaping Information
Water Requirement ?
Moderate - High
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: Store fresh undried seeds in water in refrigerator at 35° to 39°P 6 mos., then germinate in water at 86° to 89.8°F in continuous high light (180-200 foot candles) (Isely 1944)

Common uses
Bogs and Ponds

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Botanical Names
Scirpus americanus

Common Names
Chairmaker's Bulrush, Olney's Three-square Bulrush

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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