This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol5-6", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
The antiquity of this plant is shown by its occurrence in the Pre-glacial deposits of Pakefield, Suffolk, early Glacial beds at Beeston, Norfolk, Interglacial, Late Glacial, Neolithic, and Roman deposits at Silchester. At the present day it is found in the Arctic and N. Temperate Zones in Arctic Europe, North Africa, N. Asia, N. India, and N. America. It is found in every county in Great Britain, except Montgomery, as far north as Sutherland, and up to 1200 ft. in Yorkshire, as well as in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
This is a typical marsh plant, growing along the margins of watery wastes, and covering large areas, with Arrowgrass, Sedges, and other paludal species. It is also common in wet meadows, bordering streams, and around ponds and pools. Common Spike-rush is a true hygro-phyte.
The root is creeping, giving forth several leaves and stems in a clustered manner, and the plant has a tufted grass-like habit. The stems are stout or slender, flattened at the margin, with numerous leafless sheaths, the glumes beardless, lance-shaped and acute at the base, membranous and blunt transversely.
The flowers are in terminal spikes, round, reddish-brown, oval, naked, with lance-shaped, acute bracts or leaflike organs at the base, the lowest glume half-clasping the spike, with anthers which come to a point. The nut is inversely egg-shaped, plano-convex, the margins smooth, with style egg-shaped below, shorter than the 4 bristles.
Common Spike-rush is 8 in. in height. The flowers are in bloom in July. The plant is a perennial, propagated by suckers. The flowers are pollinated by the wind, bisexual. There are 3 stamens, the style is deciduous, and there are 2 stigmas. The anthers are apiculate, coming to a point. The fruit is a nut flattened on the border and finely furrowed, which falls to the ground when ripe, not opening.
Eleocharis, R. Brown, is from the Greek helos, marsh, and chairo, I delight, and the second Latin name refers to the habitat, marshy. It is also called Aglet-headed Rush.
Photo. Matters & Garnett - Common Spike rush (Eleocharis palustris, Roem. and Schult.)
Essential Specific Characters: 319. Eleocharis palustris, Roem. and Schult. - Root creeping, leaves and stems tufted, caespitose, the latter sheathed, glume surrounding the spike, fruit swollen at the top.