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Illinois Native Plant Guide - River Bulrush - Pages 134-135

Illinois Native Plant Guide

River Bulrush
Scirpus fluviatilis

Preferred Water Depth and Inundation Tolerance

Tolerates semipermanent to permanently flooded conditions (Max: 30”/Min: 2” to moist soil).

Wildlife Value

Achenes are eaten by ducks, geese, rails, and shorebirds. Muskrats eat aerial stems and rootstocks. Provides spawning habitat for bluegills and bass.


Used in lower shoreline zones for erosion control at a depth of 1-6 inches (shallow standing water). Plants may be uprooted by wave action. Also used in vegetated swales.

Availability, Establishment, and Maintenance

  • Rhizomes, rootstock, tubers, and transplants are available from several commercial vendors. Seed production is erratic, so there is sporadic availability from vendors.
  • Seed also needs cold water treatment. Rhizomes, tubers, and rootstock are preferred for propagation. Rhizomes should be planted at soil depths of 2-5 inches and spaced 1-3 feet apart.
  • Spring planting assures greater survival of transplants. Maintain moist substrate to a couple inches of water during plant establishment in order to prevent flooding of young shoots.
  • Avoid planting in deep shoreline water since it reduces plant spread. Mudflat conditions are preferred for planting.
  • This species spreads quickly vegetatively and can form monocultures.

River Bulrush
Scirpus fluviatilis

Mature Height
5-7 feetRiver Bulrush

Plant Type
Perennial emergent herb

Indicator Status


Nutrient Load Tolerance
Moderate to high

Salt Tolerance
Low to moderate

Siltation Tolerance

Flowering Color and Time
May to September

Light Preference
Partial to full sun

Seeding Rate
.06 - .125 lbs/acre

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