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Few-flowered Spike-rush

Eleocharis quinqueflora

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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, Common Spike-rush, 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, 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:
30 centimetres tall
Bogs, fens, gardens, marshes, meadows, riversides, saltmarshes, sand dunes, sea cliffs, seaside, swamps, waterside, wetland.

Brown, no petals
The flower is a brown, short and cylindrical. It appears at the very top of the stem of the plant. 3 stamens.
The fruit is an achene. It is a type of dry, one-seeded fruit surrounded by scales.
The stems are leafless. The stem is erect and cylindrical (but slightly flattened in cross-section).
Other Names:
Fewflower Spikerush, Five-flowered Spike-rush.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Eleocharis quinqueflora, also known as five-flowered spike-rush, is a species of rush that is native to wetlands in parts of North America, including Canada and the United States. It is a perennial herb that typically grows to a height of about 30 centimeters (12 inches) and has narrow, pointed leaves. The flowers are small and inconspicuous and are arranged in spikes at the top of the stem, each spike can contain up to five flowers. It is often found in moist habitats such as marshes, fens, and bogs, and along the edges of ponds, lakes and streams. Due to its tolerance to wet soils, it can be planted in rain gardens, pond and wetland restoration projects.


The Few-flowered Spike-rush, scientifically known as Eleocharis quinqueflora, is a fascinating plant that belongs to the Cyperaceae family. This plant is commonly found in wetlands, marshes, and other moist habitats across North America. It is a perennial plant that can grow up to 60 centimeters in height, and it has a distinctive spiky appearance that makes it easily identifiable.

Description and Characteristics

The Few-flowered Spike-rush has a slender stem that is typically triangular in shape. It has a brownish-green color, and it is often covered in scales. The stem is also hollow, which allows the plant to float in water. At the top of the stem, the plant produces spikelets that contain small flowers. These flowers are arranged in a unique pattern, with only a few flowers produced in each spikelet.

The Few-flowered Spike-rush is a very adaptable plant and can thrive in a wide range of conditions. It can grow in both still and flowing water and is often found in wetlands, marshes, and other waterlogged areas. It can also tolerate a range of temperatures, from cool, temperate climates to hot, subtropical regions.


The Few-flowered Spike-rush has a range of practical uses, especially in wetland restoration projects. It is commonly used to stabilize stream banks and other waterlogged areas. Its root system helps to hold soil in place and prevent erosion, while its ability to grow in wet conditions helps to reduce the impact of flooding.

In addition to its practical uses, the Few-flowered Spike-rush is also used for aesthetic purposes. It can be used in landscaping projects, particularly in water gardens or as a border around ponds and lakes.


The Few-flowered Spike-rush is not currently considered an endangered species, but it is at risk due to habitat loss and degradation. Wetland destruction and development activities are the primary threats to this plant, and in some areas, it has been listed as a species of concern.

Conservation efforts for the Few-flowered Spike-rush include protecting and restoring wetland habitats, as well as educating the public about the importance of wetlands and the plants and animals that depend on them.

The Few-flowered Spike-rush is a remarkable plant that is well adapted to life in wetland habitats. Its unique appearance and adaptability make it an important species for wetland restoration and conservation efforts. As with all plants, it is important to protect and preserve the Few-flowered Spike-rush and its habitat to ensure its survival for future generations.

More Information about Few-flowered Spike-rush

The Few-flowered Spike-rush has been used by indigenous peoples in North America for various purposes. The Cherokee tribe used it to treat dysentery, while the Navajo used it to make a type of flour. The plant's root system was also used for weaving baskets and other items.

The plant's ecological importance cannot be overstated. It provides food and shelter for a variety of wildlife, including birds, insects, and small mammals. In addition, its ability to stabilize soil and prevent erosion helps to maintain water quality and reduce the negative impacts of flooding. Wetlands that are home to the Few-flowered Spike-rush also act as carbon sinks, helping to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

Despite its many benefits, the Few-flowered Spike-rush is threatened by a number of factors, including habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation. In some areas, invasive species and overuse of pesticides have also contributed to declines in the plant's populations.

Conservation efforts for the Few-flowered Spike-rush include protecting and restoring wetland habitats, as well as reducing the use of harmful chemicals and practices that can harm the plant and its habitat. It is important to recognize the ecological and cultural value of this plant and to work towards its conservation and restoration for future generations.

One interesting aspect of the Few-flowered Spike-rush is its unique reproductive strategy. The plant produces both seeds and vegetative propagules, which are essentially clones of the parent plant. The vegetative propagules, known as bulbils, are produced in specialized structures called gemmae cups that are located at the base of the spikelets. The bulbils can then detach and form new plants, allowing the plant to reproduce asexually and spread rapidly within suitable habitats.

Another important aspect of the Few-flowered Spike-rush is its ability to tolerate changing environmental conditions. Wetland ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including rising temperatures and sea levels, and changes in precipitation patterns. The Few-flowered Spike-rush is one of several plant species that are being studied for their ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions, and it is hoped that such research will help to identify strategies for conserving wetland ecosystems and the many species that depend on them.

The Few-flowered Spike-rush is an important plant species that provides a range of ecological and cultural benefits. Its distinctive appearance and unique reproductive strategy make it an interesting subject of study for botanists and ecologists, while its importance in wetland restoration and conservation efforts underscores the need to protect and preserve this valuable species. By recognizing the ecological, cultural, and economic value of the Few-flowered Spike-rush and other wetland plants, we can work towards a more sustainable future for all.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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