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.
The Rushes as a whole (Juncus and Luzula) form a group of plants that is generally despised, except for weaving into mats, and, in other days, for providing wicks for rush-lights. We have in the one genus cylindric, in the other flattened grass-like, leaves, and inconspicuous flowers of green or brown; and yet the evolutionists tell us on the evidence of those flowers that the rushes are descendants of a noble family - the lilies - who have in the struggle for existence taken to a less showy role in life, in order that that they might be included in the list of the surviving "fittest." The truth of this will be apparent if we take the flower of a present-day lily - a tulip or a tiger-lily will do - and compare it with this Vernal Wood-rush. We shall find every part of the lily reproduced in the rush-flower on a small scale, with the greatest economy of materials.
The Wood-rushes (Luzula) are all perennial plants. Their leaves are like the blades of soft grass, the edges fringed with long white silky hairs. The floral leaves (perianth) are six in number, in two series, and are chaffy in texture. Stamens six. The ovary is broad, narrowing to the summit, upon which is the style, ending in three long stigmas covered with minute raised points. The fruit is a one-celled, three-valved capsule, containing three seeds at the bottom. In L. vernalis the flowers are chestnut brown, with the perianth-segments shorter than the blunt-topped capsule, and pointed at the tips ; clustered in twos and threes and grouped in lax cymes. The radical leaves are broad (¼ inch), soft and sparingly hairy. Woods and shady places, flowering March to May. Other members of the genus are:
I. The Great Hairy Wood-rush (L. maxima) is much larger, the leaves sometimes half an inch broad and a foot long, sparsely hairy. Flowers paler, three or four clustered; cymes large, compound. Woods and heaths. May and June.
II. Narrow-leaved Wood-rush (L. forsteri). Similar to L. vernalis, but more slender and taller. Capsule pointed. Shady places on chalk or gravel, not farther north than South Wales and Oxford. April to June.
Luzula vernalis. - Junceae. III. Field Wood-rush (L. campestris). Rootstock creeping. Leaves very hairy. Perianth segments longer than the broad rounded and spiked capsule. Flowers in dense clusters of three or four, in short cymes. Heaths and pastures. April to June.
IV. Spiked Mountain Wood-rush (L. spicata). This and the next are purely mountain species, restricted to an altitude of one to over four thousand feet for spicata, and from three to over four thousand for arcuata. The leaves are narrow, leathery, and the hairiness is confined to the lower end. Flowers smaller than the silvery, chaffy, awned scales (bracteoles) below them. The perianth segments end in awns, and are longer than the abruptly-pointed capsule. The cymes are densely flowered, drooping and spike-like. Flowers in July.
V. Curved Mountain Wood-rush (L. arcuata). The smallest, rarest, and most distinct of our native species. The stems do not exceed about 4 inches, and are proportionately stout. Rootstock creeping. Leaves short, narrow, leathery, slightly hairy. Flowers dark brown, three to five in a cluster, in lax cymes ; the perianth segments extended into a point. Bracteoles pointed, not awned, not silvery. Mountains in Scotland only. July.