This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
Of late years it has become the general error to call this plant Bulrush, a name which belongs by right to Scirpus lacustris. Every autumn the hawkers in London and other cities offer the cylindrical spikes of Typha for sale as aesthetic decorations, and call them bulrushes; but they are not the originators of the blunder. It is the artists who have done this thing, especially one Delaroche, whose picture of "The Finding of Moses" is of world-wide popularity. In that painting he depicted the future leader of his people rocking in his ark amid a forest of Typha. What more was needed to associate the word bulrush of the Bible (itself a blunder of the learned translators) with this plant?
There are two British species, perennial plants with long, narrow, grass-like leaves, the bases of which sheath the stem.
Reed mace. Typha latifolia. - Typhaceae. -
Anthyllis vulneraria. - Leguminosae. The stamens and pistils are produced in separate flowers, but upon the same plant. The flowers have no perianth other than a few slender hairs. The staminate flowers occupy the upper portion of the well-known spike or "mace," and consist simply of several stamens joined together, the anthers opening along their sides. The pistillate flowers consist of a stalked ovary with a slender style and a one-sided narrow stigma. The specific differences are as follows:
I. Great Reed Mace (T. latifolia). Leaves as much as an inch and a half broad, in two rows, bluish-green. Flowering stem naked, 6 or 7 feet high. Staminate and pistillate spikes continuous, or but slightly interrupted. Growing in lakes and on the banks of rivers. Flowering in July and August.
II. Lesser Reed Mace (T. angustifolia). Whole plant smaller. Leaves half the width, dark green, grooved at lower end. Staminate and pistillate spikes separated by an interval. Stigmas broader. Ditches and pools. Less common than latifolia. Flowering July.
Name from Greek, Tiphos, a fen or marsh, from the habitat.