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What is Scirpus?

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  • Written By: Vasanth S.
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2016
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Scirpus is a plant genus that is part of the Cyperaceae family. It contains about 35 species of perennial herbs and grasses that are native to North America, Australia, and Asia. These grass-like plants form in clumps and feature woolly bristles. Landscapers utilize the flowers of these plants in beds or borders. These plants have several environmental benefits including preventing erosion and providing nesting material for birds.

The genus name is the Latin word for "rush" or "bulrush." Several species in this genus have variations of the name including Scirpus cyperinus, which is commonly called cottongrass bulrush. Scirpus microcarpus is also known as panicled bulrush, and Scirpus hattorianus is referred to as mosquito bulrush.

Most of the plants in the genus Scirpus grow in wetlands or marshes. S. microcarpus, for example, populates the landscape of Canada and the central and western portion of the United States. S. congdonii is endemic to California, Oregon, and Nevada while S. fluviatilis is distributed throughout eastern Asia and Australia.

The cottongrass bulrush is a commonly cultivated plant, growing to 3-6 feet in height. The stems are covered with green leaves up to the flower cluster. Brown, fuzzy clusters of flowering spikes hang from the stems. They typically are 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) in length. The bloom period is between June and September.

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Cottongrass bulrush is considered an aquatic plant since it grows well in wet soil or submerged soil. The pH of the soil is acidic to neutral. It is recommended to plant this species in an area that has plenty of sunlight.

Planting the cottongrass bulrush offers several benefits. The flowers attract many types of butterflies, while the seeds attract birds. The plant itself provides protection for other aquatic plants by preventing damage from wind and water erosion.

The cottongrass bulrush is generally propagated by division. Usually, the entire plant is uprooted from the soil and laid on the ground sideways. The stems are separated into different clumps and the roots between them are separated. If the roots are especially tough, the roots are cut. The separated clumps are replanted in individual holes.

This plant is generally insect free, but aphids will feed on the roots. Aphids are tiny, pear-shaped insects that have long legs and antennae. There are several types, but the one that affects the cottongrass bulrush generally lives in the soil. It damages the roots, preventing the plant from absorbing nutrients.

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