Friday, December 6, 2013

Native Species Profile - Giant Bur Reed

I recently wrote a post on one of the habitats that can be found in Mid-Michigan, the Emergent Marsh.  I have written previously about many of the plants found in this habitat:  Great Blue Lobelia, Blue Flag Iris, Blue Vervain, Common Arrowhead, Common and Narrow-leaf Cattails, Lizard's Tail, Marsh Marigold, Spotted Joe-Pye Weed, and White Turtlehead.

Another plant found in the emergent marsh is the Giant Bur Reed  or Giant Bur-reed (Sparganium eurycarpum).  Also known as the Broadfruit Bur Reed or Common Bur Reed, this sedge-like plant is found growing across much of the United States and Canada - 38 states and 11 Canadian provinces and territories.

Giant Bur Reed has erect sedge-like leaves that may grow to a length of 2 to 4 1/2 feet.  When viewed in the cross-section, these leaves have a shallow V shape.

The greenish-white flowers of this plant are sphere-shaped.  They grow on a branched stem and bloom in sequence from the bottom of the stem to the top.  Individual plants bloom between May and August in Michigan.

Male flowers grow at the top of the stem with the female flowers growing below.  The male flowers have a puffy pompon appearance.  The female flowers look like spiky balls and are distinguished by their two stigmata.  Once pollinated, the female flower cluster produces a densely backed round ball of nutlets (or achenes).  These nut-lets are eaten by waterfowl such as ducks and geese.  The entire plant is eaten by muskrats and deer occasionally graze on the leaves.

Male (staminate) flowers of the Giant Bur Reed
Closeup of male Giant Bur Reed flowers

Female (pistillate) flowers - note the forked stigmata

Basic Information

Bur Reed 
Sparganium eurycarpum

Height:  2-4 ½’ tall

Habitat:  ponds, marshes, shorelines, shallow water

Flower Color:  greenish to yellowish white

Bloom Time:  May – August

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