Cosmopolitan Bulrush (Maritimus)

The Cosmopolitan Bulrush (Maritimus) is generally described as a perennial graminoid. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the late summer, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Cosmopolitan Bulrush (Maritimus) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Cosmopolitan Bulrush (Maritimus) will reach up to 3.2 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Cosmopolitan Bulrush (Maritimus) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by seed, sprigs. It has a moderate ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -23°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Erosion Control, Restoration, & Constructed Wetlands: As a pioneering species, it will provide protection from wind and wave erosion especially for newly exposed soil. The rhizomes form a matrix for many beneficial bacteria making this plant an excellent choice for wastewater treatment constructed wetlands.

Wildlife & Livestock: Livestock and big game will rarely use this species for food. Palatability is low.

Waterfowl will utilize the seed and use the stems for nesting cover. Muskrats and beaver will eat the rootstocks and young shoots. They will also use the shoots for building material.

General Characteristics

General: Sedge Family (Cyperaceae). Alkali bulrush is a native perennial, heavily rhizomatous, obligate, wetland plant that may reach 15 dm in height and form dense stands. The stems are upright and angular with several leaves, up to 1 cm wide, along the lower two thirds of the plant. The flowers are borne in sessile spikelets, densely clustered at the tip of the stem, and nestled in 3 or more leafy bracts. Spikelets are 1.2-2 cm long. The seeds are brown lenticular achenes, 2.5 to 4 mm long.

Required Growing Conditions

In the U.S., it ranges from the West Coast, east to Minnesota, and south to Louisiana. It is also found in the northeastern United States. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Cultivation and Care

Adaptation: Alkali bulrush is found at low to mid elevations in marshes, transient wet spots, pond margins, and backwater areas. It forms large dense stands in alkaline or saline sites. It can handle a pH of up to 9.0. It will grow on soils from fine clay to silt loam to sand. It can survive periods of total inundation of up to 1 m deep. It tends to spread and reproduce when the water table is within 10 cm of the surface. It can occur in freshwater sites, but is usually a pioneering species that will be replaced over time with more permanent species. Seed and rhizome growth spread it. It is fairly resistant to fire, which will increase its production and protein content.

Seed Collection: Seed ripens in late August to October. Seeds are held tightly in the seedhead, which means the collection time can be extended. Seeds may be collected by hand stripping the seed from the plant or clipping it using a pair of hand shears. A power seed harvester may also be used. The bracts, which are found in the seed heads, are very irritating to the skin. Gloves and protective eye ware should be worn, especially when using a power seed harvester. Seed Cleaning: The hammermill is used to break up the large debris and knock the seed loose from the stem. Cleaning can be accomplished using a seed cleaner with a No. 8 round top screen and a 1/8-inch bottom screen. Screens should be sized so desired seed will fall through and debris and weed seed are removed. Air velocity should be adjusted so chaff is blown away. Air flow and screen size may require adjustment to optimize cleaning process for given situation.

Propagation: Stratifying the seed in a mixture of water and sphagnum moss at 2°C for 30 days may enhance the germination rate. Seed viability is quite high if stored properly for up to 20 years.

Within the greenhouse, seeds need light, moisture, and heat for germination. Place seeds on surface of soil and press in lightly to assure good soil contact. Do not cover seed. Soil should be kept moist. The greenhouse should be kept hot (32°C to 38°C). Germination should begin with in about one week. Maintain moisture until plants are to be transplanted.

Wild plants for transplant can be collected and transplanted directly into the desired site. As long as no more than 4 dm2 is removed from any 1-m2 area, the hole will fill in within one growing season. Care should be taken not to collect plants from weedy areas, as these weeds can be relocated to the transplant site, and the hole left at the collection site may fill with undesirable species.

Planting: Planting plugs (either from the greenhouse or wild transplants) is the surest way to establish a new stand of this species. Plug spacing of 30 to 45 cm will fill in within one growing season. Soil should be kept saturated. It can handle from 5-8 cm of standing water during the establishment year. Fluctuating the water level during the establishment period is essential. Water levels can be managed to enhance spread and control weeds.

Maintenance: Plants can tolerate up to 1 m of standing water for short periods of time. Typically, the water will be high in the spring and decrease throughout the growing season to within 1 m of the surface in the fall. This species can tolerate periods of drought and total inundation. Water levels can be managed to enhance or reduce spread as well as control terrestrial weeds.

Environmental Concerns: Generally, insects and disease are not a problem. If an insect or disease problem is encountered in the greenhouse, treat as you would for any other type plant.

Cultivars, Improved and Selected Materials (and area of origin) The Intermountain Interagency Riparian/Wetland Plant Development Project released four performance-tested ecotypes for areas within its service area in 1997. These are listed below.

Bear Lake Selection: Accession Number 9067380, for Land Resource Region (LRR) B East from Bear Lake National Wildlife Ref

General Upkeep and Control

SCPU10"Insectivores have not been a problem with basket grass. Aphids will feed on the stems, but will not kill the plant. If problems from an insect, herbivore (such as small mammals), or disease should emerge, treat as you would for any other plant species. Basket grass is tended by gathering and reducing the density between plants to stimulate shoot production. Fire was used to manage Schoenoplectus dominated wetlands in some areas.

Traditional resource management of basket grass includes the following: 1) shared ownership of individual patches and their output, ensuring long-term care and enhancement of plant production; 2) redistribution of plant wealth to basketweavers and elders; and 3) individual patches and landscapes were burned regularly.

Bowerman Basin, one of the two remaining traditional gathering sites of basket grass in Washington, is currently managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a national wildlife refuge. They are processing permit requests through tribal offices, and process a number of gatherers. Tribal members don’t feel comfortable with the permit process, but recognize it’s to guarantee access (Dublanica pers. comm. 1999). The USFWS are also providing Skokomish tribal representatives a permit to collect plants to transplant to the Skokomish tribal lands. "

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Graminoid
Growth Period Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Late Summer
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Rhizomatous
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 3.2
Vegetative Spread Moderate
Flower Color Green
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed, Sprigs
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -23
Soil Depth for Roots 12
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Slow
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 4–7 pH
Precipitation Range 40–40 inches/yr
Planting Density 3450–4800 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 12
Minimum Frost-Free Days 110 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance High
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

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