This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Remains of the arctic Bulrush have been found in Preglacial beds in Norfolk and Suffolk, in Early Glacial beds in Norfolk, in Inter-glacial and Late Glacial beds, as well as in Neolithic deposits. Its present distribution is the Arctic, Temperate, and Tropical regions, being cosmopolitan. In Great Britain it does not grow in the Isle of Wight, Monmouth, Pembroke, Cardigan, Roxburgh, Linlithgow, Mid Perth, N. Perth, Banff, Easterness, S. Ebudes, but elsewhere ranges as far north as the Shetlands, and occurs in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
Bulrushes are widespread in these islands, forming a typical part of the landscape, one may almost say in every piece of water scenery. They form tall beds in the channels of rivers, streams, or ditches in low-lying districts, and are a component part of the fen, marsh, and bog. And in addition they are common to the still waters of lakes, ponds, and pools, growing in the reed swamp.
1 Or the stigma may not ripen till later. In some cases both mature simultaneously. The 6 anthers which alternate with the perianth-segments ripen first. The other three open later, and then the stigmas.
The tall, graceful stems and leaves of the Bulrush have a distinct habit of their own. The stem is erect, leafless, round, spongy, sheathed at the base. The leaves are long, floating, keeled or strap-shaped. The cymes of flowers are in terminal compound clusters, at first lateral, the stalkless cylindric spikelets having smooth fringed glumes, with 3 stigmas. The nut is egg-shaped and brownish, longer than the 4-6 bristles.
Photo. A. R. Horwood - Bulrush (Scirpus Lacustris, L.)
The Bulrush is 8-10 ft. high. The flowers are at their best in July and August. The plant is a herbaceous perennial, propagated by rhizomes.
The flowers are bisexual. There are 6 perianth-scales in two rows, and 3 stamens. The style is 2-3 cleft, and falls. The flowers are proterogynous and wind-pollinated.
The fruit is a nut, three-cornered, and when ripe it falls into the water and is thus dispersed.
The graceful Bulrush is practically always an aquatic plant.
A fungus, Puccinia scirpi, attacks the Bulrush. Three beetles, Erirhinus festucae, Donacia obscura, D. thalassina, and Lepidoptera,
Chilo cicatricellus, Slender Clouded Brindle (Xylophasia scolopacina), are found on it.
Scirpus, Plautus, is Latin for Bulrush, and the second Latin name indicates its normally lacustral habitat.
This plant is named Bass, Bent, Bolder, Bullrush, Bumble, Club-rush, Frail-rush, Holrysche, Spurt Grass, Panier Rush. Lyte explains thus: "Bycause they use to make fygge frayles and paniers therewithal". In respect to the name Bass a writer remarks: "According to Kennett the term is also applied to a collar for cart horses made of flags". In Cumberland the word is applied generally to dried rushes.
The name Bulrush is applied more commonly to Typha latifolia to-day. It is spelt pole-rush, poolrush, but bullrush probably means a big bush, bull being used to denote coarse or large. A horse's collar of straw or rushes is called a bumble barfan, as distinguished from the leather barfan, hence the name Bumble or Bumbles. It was called Frail-rush "from its use in making frails", a light kind of basket made of rushes or matting, much used for fruit; the term is still in use in East Anglia for a shapeless, flexible mat basket.
It has been used for making matting and chair-seats, or rush-bottomed chairs, mats, and hassocks; and it is used like reeds and grass-wrack, etc, for thatching. Bulrushes have also been used for packing casks and rendering them watertight. The roots are astringent, and were once used medicinally. Pack-saddles used to be stuffed with bulrushes.
Essential Specific Characters:320. Scirpus lacustris, L. - Stem terete, no leaves, flower spikes in a terminal panicle, glumes glabrous, nut obovate, 3-angled.