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Lesser Bulrush

Typha angustifolia

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Typhaceae (Bulrush)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
3 metres tall
Bogs, ditches, fens, marshes, mud, ponds, riversides, seaside, swamps, water, waterside, wetland.

Brown, no petals
Tiny and densely packed, sausage-shaped, spongy, brown flowers. Similar to Common Bulrush (typha latifolia) but the flowers are a paler brown. Also, Lesser Bulrush often has its male and female flowers separated by a 3 to 8cm gap (the male flower being on top). Wind-pollinated.
A dry, cottony / hairy nutlet (called an achene).
Long, thin, linear leaves, similar to Common Bulrush except that they are narrower and paler. The leaves are 1 to 2cm wide. Common and Lesser Bulrush can hybridise to produce Typha angustifolia x latifolia. Perennial.
Other Names:
Lesser Reedmace, Narrow Leaf Cattail, Narrow-leaved Cattail.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Typha angustifolia, also known as narrow-leaved cattail or bulrush, is a species of flowering plant in the family Typhaceae. It is native to North America and is commonly found in wetland areas, such as marshes, swamps, and along the edges of ponds and lakes. T. angustifolia is a herbaceous perennial that grows to a height of up to 3 meters. It has long, narrow, green leaves and small, brown or green flowers that are surrounded by a dense, sausage-shaped inflorescence. The plant is valued for its medicinal properties and has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory problems and skin conditions. It is also used as a food source and is an important habitat plant for a variety of wildlife species.


Lesser Bulrush (Typha angustifolia) is a freshwater plant species commonly found in North America, Europe, and Asia. It is a member of the Typhaceae family and is closely related to the Common Cattail (Typha latifolia). Unlike its larger relative, the Lesser Bulrush has a smaller, more slender growth habit and is generally found in shallower water.

The Lesser Bulrush has long, narrow leaves that can reach up to 3 feet in length. The leaves are light green in color and have a glossy, smooth surface. The plant produces spikes of brownish-yellow flowers that are arranged in dense clusters at the top of the plant. These flowers are followed by brown, sausage-shaped seed heads that are an important food source for wildlife, such as ducks and geese.

In its natural habitat, the Lesser Bulrush grows in shallow wetlands, such as marshes, bogs, and the edges of ponds and lakes. It is highly adaptable and can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions, including fluctuations in water levels, salinity, and nutrient levels.

In addition to its ecological value, the Lesser Bulrush has a range of practical uses. The plant's leaves can be used as roofing material, while the fibrous material inside the stem can be woven into mats, baskets, and other useful items. In some cultures, the plant's rhizomes (underground stems) are used as a food source, while the seeds are used to make flour.

Despite its widespread distribution, the Lesser Bulrush is considered a threatened species in some regions due to habitat loss and degradation. Efforts to conserve and protect wetlands, such as the creation of nature reserves and the restoration of degraded habitats, are important for the preservation of this species and the many other plants and animals that depend on them.

Aside from its ecological and practical benefits, the Lesser Bulrush is also an attractive ornamental plant. It is often used in landscaping and water garden designs, as well as in constructed wetlands and rain gardens. Its narrow leaves and spikes of flowers provide a unique texture and form to garden beds, while its tolerance of wet conditions make it an ideal choice for areas that are prone to flooding or have high water tables.

In addition, the Lesser Bulrush is also a popular plant for use in bioremediation projects. Its ability to absorb excess nutrients and heavy metals from water makes it an effective tool for improving water quality in contaminated or degraded aquatic systems. By planting the Lesser Bulrush in areas where water pollution is a problem, it can help to reduce the negative impacts of pollutants and promote the health of aquatic ecosystems.

The Lesser Bulrush is also an important plant species for the study of wetland ecology. Its adaptability and resilience to a range of growing conditions make it a valuable model for understanding the functioning of wetland ecosystems and the impacts of environmental stressors, such as climate change, water levels, and nutrient inputs.

Overall, the Lesser Bulrush is a valuable and versatile plant species that plays a critical role in the functioning of wetland ecosystems and the health of aquatic environments. Whether used for ornamental purposes, water treatment, or scientific research, this species is an important part of the natural world and deserves our recognition and protection.

In terms of its cultural significance, the Lesser Bulrush has a long history of use by indigenous people in North America and Europe. In many cultures, it was used for a variety of purposes, including food, shelter, and medicine. The plant's leaves and stems were used to make baskets, mats, and roofs for homes, while the seeds and rhizomes were used as a food source.

In traditional medicine, the Lesser Bulrush was used to treat a variety of ailments, including wounds, infections, and digestive problems. Its root system was believed to have purifying properties, and it was used to cleanse water sources and reduce the risk of waterborne illnesses.

Today, the Lesser Bulrush continues to be an important species for both indigenous and non-indigenous people. In many parts of the world, it is still used as a traditional food source, and its practical uses, such as basket weaving, continue to be an important part of local cultures. In addition, the plant's ornamental value and use in bioremediation projects have led to an increased appreciation for its many benefits and contributions to the natural world.

Despite its importance, the Lesser Bulrush is facing a range of threats, including habitat loss, degradation, and pollution. Climate change is also a growing concern, as rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns can impact the health and distribution of wetland ecosystems. In order to conserve and protect this species, it is important that we work to restore degraded habitats, protect existing wetlands, and reduce the negative impacts of human activities on the environment.

In conclusion, the Lesser Bulrush is a valuable and versatile plant species with a rich cultural and ecological history. Its importance to wetland ecosystems, water treatment, and local cultures makes it a valuable asset that deserves our recognition and protection. Whether used for ornamental purposes, food, or medicine, the Lesser Bulrush is an important part of the natural world and a reminder of the many benefits and gifts that nature provides.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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