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Floating Bur-reed

Sparganium angustifolium

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Typhaceae (Bulrush)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Ditches, ponds, water.

Green, no petals
Globular, spiky green flowerheads. Short-stalked.
Green, spiky and ball-shaped.
An aquatic plant which grows inside water up to 2.5 metres deep. The leaves are flat and grass-like. They are keeled and normally inflated at their bases. Perennial.
Other Names:
Narrowleaf Bur-reed, Narrow-leaved Bur-reed, Narrow-leaved Burr-reed.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Sparganium angustifolium, also known as narrow-leaved bur-reed or narrow-leaved burr-reed, 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. S. angustifolium is an aquatic perennial that grows to a height of up to 1.5 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. S. angustifolium is also grown as an ornamental plant in water gardens and is known for its ability to tolerate wet, muddy soil.


Floating bur-reed is a type of aquatic plant commonly found in still or slow-moving water bodies, such as ponds, lakes, and marshes. It is scientifically known as Sparganium angustifolium and belongs to the Sparganium genus. The plant is also known by several other names, including narrow-leaved bur-reed and narrow-leaved sparganium.

The floating bur-reed is a perennial plant that is native to North America and can be found in most parts of the United States and Canada. The plant typically grows in shallow water or near the water's edge and can reach a height of up to 5 feet. It is a stem plant, with long, narrow leaves that grow in a rosette pattern. The leaves are green in color and can be up to 2 feet in length. The plant's stems are also green and can float on the water's surface, giving it its name of "floating bur-reed."

One of the key features of floating bur-reed is its distinctive inflorescence. The inflorescence is a spike-like structure that rises above the water's surface and contains numerous small, white or yellow flowers. The flowers are unisexual, meaning that each plant contains either male or female flowers. The male flowers are located at the top of the inflorescence, while the female flowers are located below.

Floating bur-reed is a very hardy plant and can thrive in a variety of water conditions. It can tolerate a wide range of pH levels, from acidic to alkaline, and can grow in water with high levels of nutrients or pollutants. The plant is also highly adaptable and can grow in both sunny and shady areas.

The floating bur-reed is an important plant for wetland ecosystems and provides important habitats for a variety of aquatic animals, such as frogs, turtles, and fish. It also provides food for waterfowl and other birds, as well as for beavers and muskrats.

In addition to its ecological value, floating bur-reed is also a useful plant for water garden enthusiasts. It is a popular plant for aquascaping, as it adds texture and height to water gardens and can be used to create a natural-looking water feature. The plant is also easy to care for and does not require much maintenance, making it a great choice for those who want to add some greenery to their water garden without having to put in too much effort.

However, it is important to note that floating bur-reed can also become invasive in some areas. This is because it can spread rapidly and outcompete other aquatic plants, leading to a decline in biodiversity in the affected water bodies. If you live in an area where floating bur-reed is considered invasive, it is important to avoid planting it and to take steps to control its spread if it is already present.

Floating bur-reed is also a valuable plant for wildlife and human uses. For example, its dense growth provides excellent cover and nesting sites for a variety of aquatic birds and mammals, such as ducks, geese, beavers, and muskrats. Additionally, the plant's stems and leaves are a food source for many herbivores, including muskrats and beavers.

The plant is also used for traditional and modern medicinal purposes. Native American tribes have used the roots of the floating bur-reed for a variety of medicinal purposes, including treatment of skin conditions, respiratory problems, and digestive issues. Modern research has shown that the plant contains a number of compounds with medicinal properties, including flavonoids, tannins, and phenolic acids.

In terms of human uses, floating bur-reed is a valuable plant for water management and erosion control. Its dense growth and extensive root systems help to stabilize shorelines and prevent erosion, making it a useful tool for managing wetlands and lakeshores. Additionally, the plant's ability to remove pollutants from water makes it a useful tool for water purification and restoration projects.

Finally, floating bur-reed is also an attractive ornamental plant that can be used to beautify water gardens and parks. Its distinctive spikes of white or yellow flowers and its floating stems and leaves make it an eye-catching addition to any water-based landscape.

In conclusion, floating bur-reed is a versatile and valuable plant that provides numerous ecological, wildlife, medicinal, human, and ornamental benefits. Whether you are looking to create a natural-looking water feature, stabilize a shoreline, or beautify a park, floating bur-reed is a plant worth considering.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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