Open the Advanced Search

Common Spike-rush

Eleocharis palustris

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.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Cyperaceae (Sedge)
Also in this family:
American Galingale, Birdsfoot Sedge, Black Alpine Sedge, Black Bog-rush, Bladder Sedge, Bog Sedge, Bottle Sedge, Bristle Club-rush, Bristle Sedge, Broad-leaved Cotton-grass, Brown Beak-sedge, Brown Bog-rush, Chestnut Rush, Close-headed Alpine Sedge, Club Sedge, Common Club-rush, Common Cotton-grass, Common Sedge, Curved Sedge, Deergrass, Dioecious Sedge, Distant Sedge, Divided Sedge, Dotted Sedge, Downy-fruited Sedge, Dwarf Sedge, Dwarf Spike-rush, Estuarine Sedge, False Fox Sedge, False Sedge, Few-flowered Sedge, Few-flowered Spike-rush, Fibrous Tussock Sedge, Fingered Sedge, Flat Sedge, Flea Sedge, Floating Club-rush, Gingerbread Sedge, Glaucous Sedge, Great Fen Sedge, Greater Pond Sedge, Greater Tussock Sedge, Green-ribbed Sedge, Grey Club-rush, Grey Sedge, Hair Sedge, Hairy Sedge, Haresfoot Sedge, Hare's-tail Cotton-grass, Heath Sedge, Hop Sedge, Large Yellow Sedge, Lesser Pond Sedge, Lesser Tussock Sedge, Long-bracted Sedge, Many-stalked Spike-rush, Mountain Bog Sedge, Needle Spike-rush, Northern Deergrass, Northern Spike-rush, Oval Sedge, Pale Sedge, Pendulous Sedge, Perennial Sedge, Pill Sedge, Prickly Sedge, Remote Sedge, Rock Sedge, Round-headed Club-rush, Russet Sedge, Salt Sedge, Sand Sedge, Scorched Alpine Sedge, Sea Club-rush, Sheathed Sedge, Slender Club-rush, Slender Cotton-grass, Slender Sedge, Slender Spike-rush, Slender Tufted Sedge, Smooth-stalked Sedge, Soft-leaved Sedge, Spiked Sedge, Spring Sedge, Star Sedge, Starved Wood Sedge, Stiff Sedge, String Sedge, Sweet Galingale, Tall Bog Sedge, Tawny Sedge, Thin-spiked Wood Sedge, Triangular Club-rush, True Fox Sedge, Tufted Sedge, Water Sedge, White Beak-sedge, White Sedge, Wood Club-rush, Wood Sedge, Yellow Sedge
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Bogs, ditches, fens, gardens, grassland, marshes, ponds, riverbanks, riversides, saltmarshes, sand dunes, swamps, waterside, wetland.

Brown, no petals
Common Spike-rush produces inconspicuous flowers that are clustered in spikelets. The flowers are small and lack showy petals, featuring a subtle and utilitarian design. Typically, they bloom during the summer months. The flowering spikes are slender and elongated, emerging from the dense tufts of the grass-like plant. While not known for their ornamental appeal, the flowers play a vital role in the plant's reproductive cycle, contributing to the continued growth and spread of Common Spike-rush in wetland habitats.
Common Spike-rush produces small, inconspicuous fruits. The fruits are typically seed-like and are contained within the spikelets where the flowers bloomed. These seeds are adapted for dispersal through various means, including water, wind, or attachment to animals. The reproductive strategy of Common Spike-rush involves the development and dispersal of these tiny seeds, contributing to the plant's ability to colonize and thrive in diverse wetland environments. The fruits are a crucial aspect of the plant's life cycle, ensuring the continuation of its population in its habitat. The seeds ripen from August to October.
The leaves of Common Spike-rush are narrow and grass-like, a common characteristic of plants in the sedge family. These linear leaves arise from the base of the plant and contribute to its tufted appearance. The leaves are typically smooth-edged and have a pointed tip, adding to the overall grassy and tufted texture of the plant. They play a vital role in the photosynthetic process, capturing sunlight to produce energy for the plant. The leaves of Common Spike-rush are well-adapted to its wetland habitat, where the plant thrives, and they contribute to its ecological role in stabilizing soil and providing habitats for various wildlife.
Common Spike-rush is not known for having a distinct or noticeable fragrance. Like many plants in the sedge family, its primary characteristics lie in its grass-like appearance, and it doesn't typically produce fragrant compounds as a significant part of its identity. The plant's ecological importance and visual appeal are more closely associated with its growth form, habitat preferences, and the structure of its flowers and spikelets, rather than any distinctive fragrance.
Other Names:
Common Spikerush, Creeping Spike-rush, Marsh Spike-rush.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Eleocharis palustris, also known as Spikerush or Creeping Spikerush, is a species of spike-rush that is a perennial herb. It is commonly found in wetland habitats, such as marshes, fens, bogs, and along the edges of ponds and streams. It is native to North America, Europe, and Asia. The plant has narrow, grass-like leaves and small, inconspicuous flowers that are borne on spikes. It typically grows to a height of 30-60 cm. It is often used in the wild for helping control erosion and sedimentation in wetlands, and in gardens and landscape design as an ornamental plant. It is also used as a food source for some birds, waterfowl and small mammals.


Common Spike-rush, scientifically known as Eleocharis palustris, is a perennial herbaceous plant that belongs to the family Cyperaceae. It is a native plant species of North America and is found in wetland habitats such as marshes, swamps, and bogs. This plant is known for its numerous uses, including its ecological, medicinal, and cultural significance.

Ecological Significance

Common Spike-rush is a vital plant species in wetland habitats, as it plays a significant role in the ecosystem. It is an important component of the wetland community, providing food and habitat for a variety of wildlife species. Many animals such as muskrats, ducks, and geese rely on this plant for food and cover. Additionally, Common Spike-rush helps to stabilize wetland soils, prevent erosion, and reduce water pollution. The extensive root system of the plant helps to trap and absorb nutrients, sediments, and other pollutants, preventing them from entering waterways.

Medicinal Significance

Common Spike-rush has a long history of medicinal use among many indigenous communities. The plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including kidney problems, digestive issues, and skin infections. It is also used as a diuretic and as a natural remedy for menstrual cramps. Some studies have shown that Common Spike-rush contains bioactive compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may contribute to its medicinal value.

Cultural Significance

Common Spike-rush is also an important cultural plant. It has been used by indigenous communities for weaving baskets, mats, and other traditional crafts. The plant's slender stems are particularly suitable for weaving intricate patterns, making it a valued material for traditional crafts. Additionally, the plant has cultural and spiritual significance in many indigenous cultures, with some tribes considering it a sacred plant.

Common Spike-rush, Eleocharis palustris, is an important plant species with numerous ecological, medicinal, and cultural significances. It serves as a vital component of wetland ecosystems, providing food and habitat for many wildlife species, while also helping to reduce water pollution. Its medicinal properties have been recognized for centuries, and it continues to be used in traditional medicine. Finally, Common Spike-rush has cultural and spiritual significance in many indigenous communities, making it a plant of great cultural importance.

More Information

The physical characteristics of Common Spike-rush include a slender stem that can reach up to 60cm in height, with a sharp pointed tip. The stem is green, cylindrical, and has a slightly triangular cross-section. The leaves are very narrow and often difficult to distinguish from the stem. The flowers are small and inconspicuous, appearing in late spring to early summer. They are arranged in a spike-like cluster at the top of the stem. The fruit is a small, brown, oval-shaped nutlet.

Common Spike-rush is a highly adaptable plant species and can grow in a variety of soil types, including sand, gravel, and mud. It is also tolerant of a wide range of water depths and can grow in both shallow and deep water. It is a hardy plant that can tolerate both drought and flooding, making it a valuable species for wetland restoration projects.

In addition to its ecological, medicinal, and cultural significances, Common Spike-rush has also been used in landscaping and gardening. Its attractive, slender stems and fine-textured foliage make it an excellent addition to water gardens, ponds, and other aquatic environments. It is also used in erosion control projects, as its extensive root system helps to stabilize soils and prevent erosion.

Common Spike-rush is a fascinating plant species with numerous uses and significances. Its ability to thrive in wetland habitats, along with its ecological, medicinal, and cultural values, make it a vital species for both humans and wildlife. As wetland habitats continue to face threats from human activities, the importance of preserving and protecting plants like Common Spike-rush has become increasingly important for the health of our environment and our communities.

One interesting aspect of Common Spike-rush is its ability to reproduce both sexually and asexually. The plant can produce seeds through sexual reproduction, which are then dispersed by wind or water. However, it can also reproduce vegetatively through rhizomes, which are underground stems that produce new shoots and roots. This asexual reproduction allows the plant to form large, interconnected colonies, which can help to stabilize soils and prevent erosion in wetland habitats.

Common Spike-rush is also a valuable plant species for water quality management. It has been shown to effectively remove pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus from water, helping to improve water quality in wetland environments. This makes it an important species for wetland restoration projects and can help to mitigate the impacts of agricultural and urban runoff on aquatic ecosystems.

The plant has also been used for culinary purposes in some cultures. The young shoots can be eaten raw or cooked and have a slightly nutty flavor. However, caution should be taken when consuming Common Spike-rush as it may cause stomach upset in some individuals.

In terms of conservation status, Common Spike-rush is considered a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, wetland habitats, where the plant thrives, continue to face significant threats from human activities such as development, agriculture, and pollution. As such, protecting and conserving wetland habitats is essential for the long-term survival of plant species like Common Spike-rush, as well as the many wildlife species that depend on them.

In conclusion, Common Spike-rush is a fascinating and valuable plant species with many uses and significances. Its adaptability, reproductive strategies, and ability to remove pollutants from water make it an important species for wetland restoration and water quality management projects. Its ecological, medicinal, and cultural values also highlight the importance of preserving and protecting wetland habitats for the health of both human communities and the environment.

30 Facts About Common Spike-rush

  1. Botanical Diversity: Common Spike-rush belongs to the Cyperaceae family, a diverse group of flowering plants known for their ecological importance.

  2. Scientific Nomenclature: Its scientific name is Eleocharis palustris, with "palustris" indicating its preference for marshy or wet habitats.

  3. Global Distribution: Common Spike-rush is found in various parts of the world, including North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

  4. Habitat Preference: It thrives in wetlands, marshes, and the edges of ponds, showcasing its adaptability to different aquatic environments.

  5. Sedge Characteristics: Common Spike-rush is classified as a sedge, characterized by its grass-like appearance and triangular stems.

  6. Growth Form: It typically grows in dense tufts or clumps, creating a visually appealing landscape in wetland areas.

  7. Flowering Period: The plant produces small, inconspicuous flowers that bloom in spikelets during the summer months.

  8. Reproduction: Common Spike-rush reproduces both by seeds and by rhizomes, contributing to its ability to colonize and spread.

  9. Wildlife Habitat: The dense vegetation of Common Spike-rush provides shelter and nesting sites for various aquatic and bird species.

  10. Erosion Control: Its extensive root system aids in soil stabilization, helping prevent erosion in wetland ecosystems.

  11. Cultural Uses: In some regions, Common Spike-rush has historical uses, such as in traditional medicine or basket weaving.

  12. Ecosystem Services: It plays a crucial role in nutrient cycling and water purification in its native habitats.

  13. Adaptation to Waterlogged Conditions: Common Spike-rush has adaptations like aerenchyma, allowing it to transport oxygen to submerged tissues in waterlogged environments.

  14. Drought Tolerance: Despite its affinity for wet areas, Common Spike-rush can tolerate brief periods of drought.

  15. Indicator Species: It is often used as an indicator species for assessing the health of wetland ecosystems due to its sensitivity to environmental changes.

  16. Invasive Potential: In some cases, Common Spike-rush can become invasive, outcompeting native vegetation in disturbed habitats.

  17. Ecological Succession: It is involved in ecological succession, helping transition water bodies from open water to wetland habitats.

  18. Culinary Use: Historically, some indigenous communities utilized parts of Common Spike-rush for culinary purposes, although it's not a widespread practice.

  19. Seed Dispersal: The seeds of Common Spike-rush are dispersed by water, wind, or through attachment to animals.

  20. Conservation Significance: Preservation of Common Spike-rush habitats is crucial for maintaining biodiversity and supporting various wildlife species.

  21. Wetland Indicator Value: Ecologists use Common Spike-rush as a wetland indicator species due to its specific habitat requirements.

  22. Hydrophilic Adaptation: The plant's hydrophilic nature allows it to thrive in areas with high water content.

  23. Bog Formation: Common Spike-rush is associated with the initial stages of bog formation, contributing to the development of these unique ecosystems.

  24. Phytoremediation Potential: It has the potential for phytoremediation, helping to absorb and accumulate pollutants in wetland soils.

  25. Ornamental Value: Common Spike-rush is sometimes used in landscaping for its ornamental grass-like appearance.

  26. Seed Bank Formation: The plant contributes to the formation of seed banks, allowing for population persistence in fluctuating environmental conditions.

  27. Habitat for Aquatic Invertebrates: The submerged portions of Common Spike-rush provide habitats for various aquatic invertebrates.

  28. Interactions with Fauna: It forms symbiotic relationships with certain animals, providing shelter and food resources.

  29. Cultural Significance: In some cultures, Common Spike-rush is associated with symbolism and used in rituals or ceremonies.

  30. Climate Change Impact: Changes in precipitation patterns and temperature due to climate change can influence the distribution and abundance of Common Spike-rush populations.


Common Spike-rush filmed at Hic Bibi Local Nature Reserve in Coppull, Lancashire on the 19th July 2023.


Please remember to Like and Subscribe to the WildFlowerWeb YouTube channel at

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map