How To Use Clay To Make Baby Print Tips Hard Bulrushes – Not to Be Confused With Cattails

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Bulrushes – Not to Be Confused With Cattails

Whenever you hear the word rush, do you think of cattails? Oddly enough, most people do. However, there are some differences between the two although coexistence is not unheard of. Cattails are known to overgrow a wetland much faster than rushes, taking up large tracts in a single growing season due to their huge amounts of windblown seeds. In the growing season, cattails are more dependent on water than rushes. Typically, the hard-stemmed bulrush [Scirus acutus] it is used in wetland projects and restoration. Bulrushes are much slower than cattails to establish and spread because they proliferate mainly through underground rhizomes rather than seeds. Bulrushes can handle and withstand long periods of drought better than cattails. There are some known differences between cattail and bulrush, such as emergent vegetation, but a known commonality between them is their special adaptation to carry oxygen from the air to their roots, enabling them to grow in continuously flooded areas, but with shallow waters. Both cattail and bulrush establish quickly (although, as stated earlier, bulrushes are still slower than cattails to establish) and both can tolerate poor quality water. However, rushes tend to grow in deeper water, while cattails prefer shallower water.

Bulrushes are various wetland (aquatic) grasses of the genus Scirpus. They are annual or perennial plants of medium to tall height. Also known as tule, wool grass, and rat grass, this herbaceous plant can grow up to 10 feet tall; they are found throughout North America and Eurasia.

They are divided into soft stem groups [Scirpus validus] and hard stem [Scirpus tabernaemontani] rushes, belonging to the Cyperaceae family. These two species are quite similar in their appearance and share commonalities regarding the areas in which they grow. Bulrushes are often used in constructed wetlands to treat agricultural NSP pollution and for the creation and restoration of wetlands. One of the plants used for this type of project is the species called Giant Bulrush aka ‘Restorer’. It is considered a superior plant for this, particularly in the southeastern states. Now you may be wondering, “What is NPS pollution and where does it come from?” Good question!

NPS is short for “non-source pollution,” which comes from coal and metal mining, photography and textile industries, agricultural and urban areas, discharge fields from failed domestic septic tanks, as well as sewage municipal utilities, rainwater and other soil-disturbing activities that have a detrimental impact on 30-50% of America’s waterways. An inexpensive and efficient means of dealing with and cleaning up different wastewaters is with constructed wetlands. For nearly 60 years, researchers have studied and reported on the use of natural or artificial wetlands and their effectiveness and ability to purify polluted water. In 1989, one such researcher named Hammer, defined constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment as “a man-made, deigned complex of saturated substrates, emergent and submerged vegetation, animal life, and water that simulates wetlands natural for human use and benefit”.

The rush [Scirpus spp] is a vegetation species that is grown in shallow beds or channels containing a root medium such as sand and/or gravel is effective in helping to regulate water flow. At the same time, biochemical reactions occur on submerged portions of plants and within wetland soils. Oxygen is passively made available for biochemical reactions primarily by diffusion of air into the system (Rogers et al, 1991). In the United States alone, more than 56 Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) systems process 95 million gallons per day of runoff and wastewater (Reed, 1991).

Bulrushes are reed-like and have long, firm leaves, three-sided olive-green stems, and drooping clusters of small, often brown, spikelets found near the tips of the stems. The stem bases have a few inconspicuous leaves. The roots (or rhizomes) produce edible tubers. The spikes of the rushes bloom with clumps of reddish-brown or straw-colored flowers that develop into hard, seed-like fruits, during the period from April to August.

They are often found along the coasts of swampy or marshy areas; such as wet places such as the edges of shallow lakes, ponds, swamps, fresh and brackish marshes, wet woodlands, slow-moving streams, and roadside ditches. They can grow up to 10 feet in moist soils and in shallow or deep, respectively, 1 to 9 feet of water. Bulrush is densely rhizomatous with abundant seed production.

Scirpus species are almost always present in natural conditions in wetlands. They are divided into soft stem groups [Scirpus validus] and hard stem [Scirpus tabernaemontani] rushes, belonging to the Cyperaceae family. These two species are quite similar in their appearance. The soft-stemmed rush can grow up to 10 feet and grows in dense colonies from the rhizomes. The soft-stemmed rush has a round (in cross-section), light grey-green, relatively soft stem that comes to a tip with no obvious leaves (only sheaths at the base of the stems). Flowers usually occur just below the tip of the stem, from July to September. They grow in the places mentioned in the first paragraph, where the soils are poorly drained or continuously saturated. In regards to ecological importance, soft-stemmed bulrush can triple its biomass in one growing season. One area that benefits from this rush is urban wetlands, where soft-stemmed rushes can and have been used to reduce pollutant loads carried by stormwater runoff.

Hard-stemmed bulrush (tule, black root) is a perennial herb with an obligate [restricted to a particular condition in life], a robustly rhizomatous wetland plant that forms dense colonies. The stems of this rush are upright and slender, sharp to slightly triangular; typically reaches 3-10 feet tall. Similarly, the leaves are thin blades that are sheathed around the long stem. The flowers are brown spikelets. The cob can have from 3 to several spikelets, from oval to cylindrical. The nuculae are completely covered by whitish-brown scales and have 6 basal bristles. Bulrushes have strong rootstocks and long, thick, brown underground stems [rhizomes]. Hard-stemmed bulrush has a much higher tolerance than myxosaline [water containing saline] conditions, compared to soft-stemmed bulrush. It grows back well after removal and is fire tolerant.

The submerged portions of all aquatic plants provide habitats for many micro and macro invertebrates. These invertebrates are in turn used as food by fish and other wild species (eg amphibians, reptiles, ducks, etc.). After aquatic plants die, their decomposition by bacteria and fungi (called “debris”) provides food for many aquatic invertebrates. The seeds of rushes are consumed by ducks and other birds while geese, muskrats and nutria consume the rhizomes and first shoots. Muskrats and beavers like to use this emerging wetland vegetation for food, as well as for building huts, thereby enhancing wetland habitat.

Bulrushes have been and are used by many cultures for medicinal purposes, as well as

In Shandong, Jiangsu, Anhui and Zhejiang provinces, China uses rush in herbal teas, decoctions and extracts. The rush is believed to be effective and most commonly used to stop bleeding, whether from an injury or an internal ailment. It is also used to treat painful periods and postpartum abdominal pain. Trials have shown that rush extracts can also reduce the amount of lipids in the blood, as well as being effective in treating colitis.

Native Americans dried edible rhizomes (seeds), which are high in protein and very high in starch, ground it into a powder for flour, mixed it with water, boiled it, and ate it as porridge. The young shoots are considered a delicacy, eaten raw or cooked. The rush can be used for syrup and/or sugar, used in salads, or eaten as a cooked vegetable. The syrup is dried to make sugar and the pollen can be used to make bread and sweets.

They also made a poultice out of the stalks to stop bleeding and to cure snakebites. The roots can be processed and used in the treatment of abscesses.

“Boneset” tea was a folk remedy used by Native Americans and pioneers to deal with general aches and pains. It was said to have the most effective relief for the flu epidemics of the 19th and 20th centuries. It remains popular as an herbal tea and is used as a tonic for colds, reduce sweating and promote bone healing. It is the belief that it actually aids in the healing of bones that has given ‘boneset’ tea its name. Modern medical research confirms these benefits, stating that compounds in boneset tea stimulate the immune system.

Some Native Americans chewed rush roots to stave off thirst. They also used the ashes of the burnt stem to wear a child’s bleeding navel.

The stalks are used to weave sturdy mats, ropes, baskets, bags, hats, skirts, sandals, tents, temporary shelters, canoes and rafts, brooms, and other household items. The plant should grow in coarse textured soil free of gravel, silt and clay if the roots are to be used for quality basket weaving. The root was sought after for its black colour, intended to highlight the motifs created in the making of a basket.

The benefits and uses of rush, both ecologically, medically and creatively, deserve careful consideration for wetland planting areas and native restoration landscapes.

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