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Illinois Native Plant Guide - Hardstem Bulrush - Pages 130-131

Illinois Native Plant Guide

Hardstem Bulrush
Scirpus acutus

Preferred Water Depth and Inundation Tolerance

Prefers saturated soils in fens and water levels to a depth of 3 feet in marsh areas. Species tolerates semi-permanently flooded conditions.

Wildlife Value

Waterfowl and shorebirds eat achenes. Muskrats and geese eat rhizomes and stems. Provides preferred nesting habitat for redhead and canvasback ducks. Also provides spawning and nursery habitat for northern pike and other fish species.


Used in lower shoreline zones and in vegetated swales. Resists wave action and water level changes.

Availability, Establishment, and Maintenance

  • Achenes, rootstocks, rhizomes, and transplants are available from commercial vendors.
  • Achenes do not germinate readily unless they are stratified under cold, wet conditions for several months and then exposed to light and warm temperatures. Fresh collected achenes can be planted in the fall in wet mudflats after drawdown for spring germination.
  • Spring planting of rootstocks and rhizomes is preferred due to greater success. Rhizomes are planted at a depth of 2-5 inches in saturated substrate and at a depth of 4-6 inches in water. Rhizomes should be placed 3 feet apart in a clustered arrangement.
  • Hardstem Bulrush is a rather slow spreading plant when propagating from rhizomes. It may take up to 3 years to develop into a thick stand.

Hardstem Bulrush
Scirpus acutus

Mature Height
3.5-9.3 feetHardstem Bulrush

Plant Type
Perennial emergent herb

Indicator Status


Nutrient Load Tolerance
Low to moderate

Salt Tolerance
Moderate to high

Siltation Tolerance
Low to moderate

Flowering Color and Time
Reddish brown
May to September

Light Preference
Full sun

Seeding Rate
.06 - .25 lbs/acre

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