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Slender Rush

Juncus tenuis

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Juncaceae (Rush)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Ditches, fields, marshes, meadows, riverbanks, riversides, roadsides, swamps, wasteland, waterside, wetland, woodland.

Green, 6 petals
A sparse cluster of pale green or yellow flowers with very long bracts. On close inspection, flowers have 3 scale-like petals and 3 sepals.
Dull brown and egg-shaped, 3-parted seed capsules.
Slender Rush is a clump-forming plant and as its name suggests, its pale green grass-like stems are slender. The stems are also hollow just like other species of Rush. Long whitish auricles are present at their bases.
Other Names:
Field Rush, Path Grass, Path Rush, Poverty Rush, Sharp Rush, Slender Yard Rush, Wire Rush, Wiregrass, Yard Rush.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Juncus tenuis, also known as path rush, slender rush, or wire rush, is a species of rush plant that is native to North America, Europe, and Asia. It is a herbaceous perennial plant that typically grows in wet soils, such as marshes, meadows, and along the banks of streams and rivers. It has green or brown, round stems that are thin and flexible, and small, inconspicuous flowers that are typically green or brown in color. It can reach a height of around 60cm and can form dense colonies. It is often used in wetland restoration projects and can help control soil erosion. It is also used in basketry and as an ornamental plant.


Slender rush, also known as Juncus tenuis, is a native perennial grass-like plant that is commonly found in North America. This plant is known for its slender and delicate stems, which can grow up to two feet in height, as well as its distinct seed pods.

Slender rush is a highly adaptable plant that can grow in a wide variety of soil types, including sandy, rocky, and clay soils. It is commonly found in wetlands, along stream banks, and in other moist habitats, but it can also thrive in drier environments such as prairies, meadows, and even disturbed areas like roadsides and construction sites.

One of the most distinctive features of slender rush is its seed pods. These are small, brown, and cone-shaped, with pointed tips and a texture similar to paper. The seeds inside the pods are small and black, and are dispersed by wind and water.

Slender rush is a valuable plant for wildlife. It provides cover and nesting material for birds, and is an important food source for waterfowl and other animals. In addition, the seeds and foliage of slender rush are edible and have been used by Indigenous peoples for food and medicine for centuries.

In terms of human uses, slender rush has several practical applications. It can be used to stabilize soil in erosion-prone areas, and its long, tough stems have been traditionally used for weaving baskets and other crafts.

One of the benefits of slender rush is its ease of cultivation. It can be grown from seed or transplanted from existing plants, and once established, it requires little maintenance. In fact, slender rush can be an excellent option for low-maintenance landscaping and can help to create a natural, wild look in gardens and other landscapes.

Slender rush is an important and adaptable plant that is valued for its role in natural ecosystems, as well as for its practical uses. Whether you are a gardener, a land manager, or simply someone who appreciates the natural beauty of North America, slender rush is a plant that is well worth getting to know.

Slender rush is a part of the Juncaceae family, which also includes other species such as soft rush (Juncus effusus) and hard rush (Juncus inflexus). These species are often used interchangeably in traditional Indigenous and herbal medicine.

One of the traditional uses of slender rush is as a diuretic, helping to increase urine output and reduce fluid retention. It has also been used to treat fevers, coughs, and digestive issues. The plant contains bioactive compounds such as alkaloids, flavonoids, and tannins, which may be responsible for its medicinal properties.

In addition to its medicinal uses, slender rush has been used for a variety of practical purposes throughout history. For example, its tough, fibrous stems have been used for making cordage, weaving mats, and creating thatched roofs. The plant's seeds have been used as a food source, and its leaves and stems have been used to make dye.

Slender rush can also play an important role in ecological restoration projects. Due to its ability to grow in a variety of soil types and habitats, it can be used to stabilize disturbed areas and improve soil health. Its deep roots help to prevent erosion and can improve soil structure, making it a valuable addition to restoration projects in riparian zones and wetlands.

In terms of its conservation status, slender rush is considered to be a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, like many wetland species, it can be threatened by habitat loss and degradation, as well as by pollution and other environmental stressors.

Slender rush is a fascinating and versatile plant with a rich history of human uses. Whether for medicinal, practical, or ecological purposes, this plant is a valuable addition to any landscape or restoration project. By learning about and appreciating plants like slender rush, we can better understand the intricate and interconnected web of life that surrounds us.

In addition to its practical and ecological uses, slender rush is also a beautiful and interesting plant to observe in its natural habitat. Its slender, upright stems and delicate seed pods create a unique and attractive visual texture in wetland and meadow ecosystems.

Slender rush is a hardy and adaptable plant that can be grown in a variety of settings, including natural areas, wetland restoration projects, and even in garden landscapes. Its low-maintenance nature and tolerance for a range of soil types make it an ideal choice for those seeking to add a natural and sustainable element to their outdoor spaces.

If you're interested in growing slender rush, there are a few key things to keep in mind. The plant prefers moist, well-drained soils and can be propagated from seed or by division. It is also important to avoid over-watering, as this can lead to fungal diseases.

As with any plant, it is important to be aware of the potential impacts that introducing a non-native species can have on local ecosystems. Invasive species such as reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) can quickly outcompete native species like slender rush, leading to a loss of biodiversity and ecological function.

Slender rush is a valuable and adaptable plant with a rich history of human uses and ecological importance. Whether for its medicinal properties, practical uses, or aesthetic qualities, this plant is an excellent addition to any natural or cultivated landscape. By appreciating and supporting native plants like slender rush, we can help to promote healthy and sustainable ecosystems for generations to come.

There are many interesting facts and features of slender rush that make it a fascinating plant to study and observe. Here are a few more:

  • Slender rush is a cool-season plant, meaning it is most active and productive during the cooler months of the year. It is often one of the first plants to green up in the spring and can remain green throughout the fall and winter.

  • The leaves of slender rush are very small and narrow, and are mostly reduced to sheaths that surround the stem. This is a common adaptation in wetland plants, as it helps to reduce the amount of surface area that is exposed to the water, reducing the risk of drowning or waterlogging.

  • In addition to its value as a food source for wildlife, slender rush is also an important host plant for several species of insects, including the Juncus beetle (Lema daturaphila) and the Juncus long-horned beetle (Typocerus velutinus). These beetles are often found feeding on the leaves and stems of slender rush, and can be important indicators of the health and vitality of wetland ecosystems.

  • Slender rush is often used in wetland mitigation and restoration projects to help control erosion and filter pollutants from runoff. The plant's deep, fibrous roots can help to stabilize the soil and prevent sediment from washing into streams and rivers, while its ability to absorb excess nutrients and pollutants can help to improve water quality.

  • While slender rush is generally considered to be a non-invasive species, it can sometimes form dense stands that outcompete other native species. In these cases, it may be necessary to control the growth of the plant to maintain ecological balance and prevent habitat degradation.

Overall, slender rush is a fascinating and versatile plant that offers a range of benefits for both humans and wildlife. By learning more about this plant and its role in natural ecosystems, we can better appreciate the complex and interconnected web of life that surrounds us.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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