Bogs and Acidic Peatlands of Southern New England by Marsha C. Salett
Sparganium americanum Nutt.
TYPHACEAE (Cat-tail Family)
EtymologySparganium is derived from the Greek, sparganion, so named by the Greek pharmacist, Dioscorides; americanum is Latin for of or from North or South America.
Synonyms (Common Name)American Bur-reed, Eastern Bur-reed, Lesser Bur-reed
DescriptionBur-reed is a perennial, aquatic, emergent herb of medium height (2 - 3 1/2' tall) that arises from rhizomes under the mud. It is an erect plant with long, flat leaves, zigzagged stems, and distinctive, bur-like seedheads. In addition to the emergent leaves, bur-reed also has submerged leaves that are long (to 4'), ribbon-like, and have many cross veins running between the parallel veins. S. americanum is the most common of the bur-reeds that grow in New England.
Wetland indicator statusOBL
Plant Height2-3.5 feet
LeavesAlternate, simple, entire, to 40" long; narrow, flat, keeled along the back; leaves clasp stems at base to form a sheath.
Flower/InflorescenceGreenish (female) or whitish (male), clustered on ball-like heads along zigzagging, branched stems; male flowerheads, which wither first, appear above the female flowerheads on the same branch; female flowerheads are approximately 1 1/4" in diameter and are noticeably larger than the male heads.
Flowering PeriodJune-August
FruitBeaked nutlet clustered on bur-like seedheads.
HabitatSwamps, marshes and ponds; in mud or shallow water.
RangeNewfoundland and Quebec to Minnesota; south to Florida and Louisiana.
(c) 1998-2006 Marsha C. Salett