Chairmaker's Bulrush (Americanus)

The Chairmaker's Bulrush (Americanus) is generally described as a perennial graminoid. This is native to the U.S. (United States) .

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: American three square stems were used by the Nuu-chah-nulth as the foundation material for their beautiful wrapped-twine baskets of tall basket sedge (Pojar & Mackinnon 1994). The leaves were used in making shopping bags and woven into hats (Moerman 1998). The leaves mixed with oil was rubbed on childrens’ heads to make their hair grow long and thick (Ibid.).

Schoenoplectus americanus seeds are rich in protein and can be ground and added to flour when making breads and cakes. The seed can be ground into a powder, mixed with water, boiled and eaten as a mush (Moerman 1998).

Wildlife: American three square rhizomes are preferred by muskrat and snow goose. The seeds are eaten by over wintering ducks in the south as a small part of their diet. The achenes are eaten by waterfowl. This species provides cover for many birds and small mammals.

General Characteristics

General: Sedge family (Cyperaceae). American three square is a medium height to tall, erect native herbaceous plant, up to seven feet tall (Tiner 1987). This species is a perennial from long stout rhizomes; with single stems that are in small groups, sharply triangular, fifteen to one hundred centimeters tall (Pojar & MacKinnon 1994). The leaves are firm, long, and strongly folded, sometimes flat and two to four millimeters wide. The fruits are dark-brown, seedlike, pointy tipped achenes, two to three millimeters long (Ibid.).

Required Growing Conditions

For current distribution, please consult the Plant profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Adaptation American three square occurs along streams, around ponds and lakes, in sloughs, swamps, fresh and brackish marshes, wet woods, and roadside ditches; common at low elevations. It also occurs in beach pools and sandy flats, often in shallow water up to about one foot or even 2.5 feet (Voss 1972).

Cultivation and Care

Propagation by Seed: Sow seeds in a cold frame pot standing in three centimeters of water. The seeds germinate quickly. When they are large enough to handle, plant them into their permanent positions in early summer.

Large divisions can be planted directly into their permanent positions. It is best to pot smaller divisions and grow them in a cold frame, out-planting after they are well established in the summer.

General Upkeep and Control

Maintenance of American three square stands depends primarily on water levels and salinity levels. Maximum survival and growth in coastal areas occur where average minimum yearly water levels do not fall below five to four inches above the soil surface. SCCA11"Hydrology is the most important factor in determining wetland type, revegetation, success, and wetland function and value. Changes in water levels influence species composition, structure, and distribution of plant communities. Water management is absolutely critical during plant establishment, and remains crucial through the life of the wetland for proper community management. Heavy grazing will eliminate Schoenoplectus species as well as other native species.

Muskrats have evolved with wetland ecosystems and form a valuable component of healthy functioning wetland communities. Muskrats use emergent wetland vegetation for hut construction and for food. An area of open water is created around the huts, which increase wetland diversity by providing opportunities for aquatic vegetation to become established. Muskrats opening up the dense stands of emergent vegetation also create habitat for other species. Both beaver and muskrats often improve wetland habitat.

Traditional Resource Management: The plant must grow in coarse-textured soil that is free of gravel, clay and silt for the roots to be of the quality necessary for basketweaving. Plants are tended by gathering rhizomes and reducing plant density. Sustainable harvesting of plants occurs through limiting harvest in any given area. Fire was also used to manage tule wetlands; fire eliminated decadent old stems and restored open water to the wetland. This stimulates growth of new shoots from rhizomes and provides a bare soil substrate for seed germination. Many Native Americans feel the use of herbicides is inappropriate in traditional gathering sites. Bulrush is densely rhizomatous with abundant seed production. In most cases, it will out-compete other species within the wetland area of the site, eliminating the need for manual or chemical control of invasive species. "

Plant Basics
General Type Graminoid
Growth Duration Perennial
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA