Eleocharis palustris



INTRODUCTORY


Photograph of Eleocharis palustris (L.) Roem. & Schult.

Photos courtesy of Kitty Kohout and the Wisconsin State Herbarium


INTRODUCTORY


AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION:
Hauser, A. Scott. 2006. Eleocharis palustris. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [].

FEIS ABBREVIATION:
ELEPAL

SYNONYMS:
Eleocharis macrostachya Britt. [74,88,104,114,115,127]
Eleocharis smallii Britt. [101,104,161,169]
Eleocharis xyridiformis Fern & Brack. [104]

NRCS PLANT CODE [166]:
ELPA

COMMON NAMES:
common spikerush
creeping spikerush
creeping spike-rush
common spike-rush
common spikesedge

TAXONOMY:
The currently accepted scientific name of common spikerush is Eleocharis palustris (L.) Roemer & J.A. Schultes (Cyperaceae) [2,18,76, 33,39,42,43,44,59,84,86,102,136,140,171,180,75]. There are no recognized varieties or subspecies.

LIFE FORM:
Graminoid

FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:
No special status

OTHER STATUS:
None

DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Eleocharis palustris
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION:
Common spikerush is found throughout the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii), excluding Florida and Georgia [76,33,39,63,104,127,140,150,155,166]. In Canada, common spikerush occurs from British Columbia east to Nova Scotia [8,89,109,173,134]. Plants Database provides a distributional map of common spikerush.

ECOSYSTEMS [57]:
FRES11 Spruce-fir
FRES19 Aspen-birch
FRES20 Douglas-fir
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES29 Sagebrush
FRES35 Pinyon-juniper
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES37 Mountain meadows
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES39 Prairie
FRES40 Desert grasslands
FRES41 Wet grasslands
FRES42 Annual grasslands
FRES44 Alpine

STATES/PROVINCES: (key to state/province abbreviations)
UNITED STATES
AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE HI ID
IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI
MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY
NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN
TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

CANADA
AB BC MB NT NS ON PQ SK YK

BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS [15]:
1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
15 Black Hills Uplift
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands

KUCHLER [100] PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:
K008 Lodgepole pine-subalpine forest
K011 Western ponderosa forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K015 Western spruce-fir forest
K016 Eastern ponderosa forest
K017 Black Hills pine forest
K018 Pine-Douglas-fir forest
K019 Arizona pine forest
K021 Southwestern spruce-fir forest
K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland
K025 Alder-ash forest
K026 Oregon oakwoods
K029 California mixed evergreen forest
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K039 Blackbrush
K040 Saltbush-greasewood
K041 Creosote bush
K047 Fescue-oatgrass
K048 California steppe
K049 Tule marshes
K050 Fescue-wheatgrass
K051 Wheatgrass-bluegrass
K052 Alpine meadows and barren
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K057 Galleta-threeawn shrubsteppe
K058 Grama-tobosa shrubsteppe
K063 Foothills prairie
K064 Grama-needlegrass-wheatgrass
K065 Grama-buffalo grass
K066 Wheatgrass-needlegrass
K067 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass
K069 Bluestem-grama prairie
K070 Sandsage-bluestem prairie
K072 Sea oats prairie
K073 Northern cordgrass prairie
K074 Bluestem prairie
K077 Bluestem-sacahuista prairie
K078 Southern cordgrass prairie
K093 Great Lakes spruce-fir forest
K094 Conifer bog
K096 Northeastern spruce-fir forest
K097 Southeastern spruce-fir forest
K098 Northern floodplain forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K107 Northern hardwoods-fir forest
K108 Northern hardwoods-spruce forest

SAF COVER TYPES [50]:
12 Black spruce
16 Aspen
30 Red spruce-yellow birch
63 Cottonwood
107 White spruce
210 Interior Douglas-fir
212 Western larch
217 Aspen
218 Lodgepole pine
220 Rocky Mountain juniper
222 Black cottonwood-willow
229 Pacific Douglas-fir
235 Cottonwood-willow
237 Interior ponderosa pine
238 Western juniper
239 Pinyon-juniper
243 Sierra Nevada mixed conifer
244 Pacific ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir
245 Pacific ponderosa pine

SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES [152]:
101 Bluebunch wheatgrass
102 Idaho fescue
107 Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass
108 Alpine Idaho fescue
109 Ponderosa pine shrubland
110 Ponderosa pine-grassland
203 Riparian woodland
213 Alpine grassland
214 Coastal prairie
215 Valley grassland
216 Montane meadows
217 Wetlands
301 Bluebunch wheatgrass-blue grama
307 Idaho fescue-threadleaf sedge
308 Idaho fescue-tufted hairgrass
309 Idaho fescue-western wheatgrass
310 Needle-and-thread-blue grama
311 Rough fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass
312 Rough fescue-Idaho fescue
313 Tufted hairgrass-sedge
314 Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
315 Big sagebrush-Idaho fescue
316 Big sagebrush-rough fescue
401 Basin big sagebrush
402 Mountain big sagebrush
403 Wyoming big sagebrush
408 Other sagebrush types
409 Tall forb
410 Alpine rangeland
411 Aspen woodland
412 Juniper-pinyon woodland
422 Riparian
504 Juniper-pinyon pine woodland
601 Bluestem prairie
606 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass
607 Wheatgrass-needlegrass
612 Sagebrush-grass
613 Fescue grassland
615 Wheatgrass-saltgrass-grama
701 Alkali sacaton-tobosagrass
702 Black grama-alkali sacaton
712 Galleta-alkali sacaton
723 Sea oats
726 Cordgrass
805 Riparian
806 Gulf Coast salt marsh
807 Gulf Coast fresh marsh
819 Freshwater marsh and ponds
822 Slough
ALASKAN RANGELANDS
909 Freshwater marsh
910 Hairgrass
913 Low scrub swamp
914 Mesic sedge-grass-herb meadow tundra
919 Wet meadow tundra
921 Willow

HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES:
Common spikerush is a dominant species, usually occurring in monotypic stands, in the following vegetation classifications:

United States:
AK:
Southeast shorelines/mudflat areas [1]
Copper River Delta [16]

AZ:
Babocomari Cienega [34]

CA:
Vernal pools [78]
Toiyabe National Forest (riparian zones) [112]

CO:
Moffat County [10]
Yampa River [120]
Green River [120]

IA:
North-central wet meadows [28]

ID:
Riparian zones throughout the east and south [65]
Riparian zones throughout the state [83]
Duck Lake [139]

KS:
High Plains and Smoky Hills [92,105]

LA:
Barataria Basin salt marsh [80]

MT:
Riparian and wetlands sites (NW part of state) [17]
Riparian and wetlands sites (SW part of state) [68]
Low to mid-elevation riparian zones throughout the state [66,67]
Sheep Mountain bog [72]

ND:
Prairie Potholes [157]

NE:
Platte and North Platte River [35]
Middle Loup River [129]

NM:
Upper and middle Rio Grande watershed [47]
Gila, Rio Grande, and Pecos basins [125]

NV:
Independence and Copper Ranges (ponds) [111]
Toiyabe National Forest (riparian zones) [112]
Humboldt National Forest (riparian zones) [112]

OK:
The panhandle and western part of state-wet areas [77]

OR:
Klamath Basin [26]
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge [32,183]
Trout Creek [49]
Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge [143]

UT:
Goshen Bay [154]
Utah Lake [19]
Riparian areas throughout the state [132]

WA:
Riparian and wetland sites (eastern part of state) [98]

WY:
Wet meadows [31]

Canada:
AB:
Wet meadows and coulee bottoms of shortgrass prairies [29]
Oxbow lakes (central part of province) [167]

ON:
Ottawa River [37]

PQ:
Huntingdon Marsh [8]
Ottawa River [173,37]

SK:
wet meadows and coulee bottoms of shortgrass prairies [29]

Canadian regions:
Prairie province salt marshes and salt meadows [109]


BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Eleocharis palustris

2003 Keir Morse

GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
This description provides characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology, and is not meant for identification. Keys for identification are available ([2,18,76,33,39,59,63,70,74,81,87,104,114,115,123,127,136,140,175,178]).

Common spikerush is a native [18,33,39,42,70,175], perennial [76,127,136], warm season graminoid found in wet areas [59,66,82,114,169]. At maturity, common spikerush may grow to a height of 5 feet (1.5 m) [2,18], but generally does not grow taller than 3 feet (1 m) [76,33,59,60,70,74,87,104,115,127,136,140,175]. Common spikerush culms are scattered or in small clusters, slender to very stout, 4 to 25 mm thick [40,104,175]. The leaves are basal and reduced to sheaths, giving the appearance that the plant is leafless [40,115,127,136]. The inflorescence is a solitary, terminal, ovoid-cylindrical spikelet, 5 to 40 mm long [2,59,70,81,127,136] and 2.4 to 4 mm thick [104]. The spikelets produce several to 10 or more flowers, 1.5 to 3 mm long [40,70,175]. Fruits are achenes, lens shaped, 1 to 2.5 mm long [39,104,115,127,136] and 1 to 1.2 mm wide [104].

Common spikerush is a clonal plant with a dense network of long, creeping rhizomes [18,76,33,39,42,59,66,70,114,127,136,140,175] usually forming a homogeneous monotypical stand from roughly 1 foot (30 cm) to 6 feet (2 m) in diameter [22,52,89,141]. The growth of common spikerush was studied at Axe Lake, Ontario. Researchers found the growth of common spikerush rhizomes is monopodial with almost no branching. Routledge [145] hypothesizes that common spikerush rhizomes follow a near-linear path to escape overcrowded seedbeds which inhibit growth.

RAUNKIAER [142] LIFE FORM:
Hemicryptophyte

REGENERATION PROCESSES:
Common spikerush reproduces vegetatively from rhizomes and by seeds [40]. The rhizomes of common spikerush grow rapidly in mid- and late summer in aquatic locations [159]. Common spikerush plants do not produce fruit until 2 or 3 years of age [159]. Seeds typically germinate in standing water mid-spring through early summer [40].

Pollination: Common spikerush is wind-pollinated [46,160].

Breeding system: Common spikerush has perfect flowers [40,104].

Seed production: Common spikerush produces a large number of seeds, though viability is low [173]. In "low-elevations," seeds ripen from July to August and rapidly disarticulate when mature [82].

Seed dispersal: The seeds of common spikerush are dispersed by water, mud, animals (particularly birds) [40,85], and wind [38]. At Mount St. Helens, Washington, common spikerush seeds are dispersed by wind in nonhydrologic environments [38]. One study suggests that seeds of common spikerush are transported and dispersed long distances from their place of origin in the gizzards of shorebirds and waterfowl [85].

Seed banking: Common spikerush utilizes a seed bank [134,30]. Soil samples taken at five 12-year old wetlands, created at a reclaimed southern Illinois surface coal mine, found the seeds of common spikerush at 3 of 5 wetlands. The density of common spikerush seeds at the 3 seed bank sites (# of seeds/m) were 1363, 2705, and 3578, respectively [30]. In June 1980, 10102 inch (30305 cm) soil samples were taken from Delta Marsh, Manitoba. The soil samples were taken to a greenhouse and subjected to a drawdown (moist soil) and shallow-flooding (1 to 1.5 inch (2-3 cm) of standing water) treatment. After 3 months, counts were taken; 240 seeds germinated from the drawdown treatment and 34 seeds germinated from the shallow-flooding treatment [134].

Germination: Stratification of common spikerush seeds promotes germination. Buhler and others [21] found that recently harvested seeds subjected to a temperature/light regime of 9 hours in the dark at 59 F (15 C) and 15 hours of light at 68 F (20 C) produced a germination rate of 0%. Yet, when seeds were stratified at 41 F (5 C) the germination rate increased to 46%. Common spikerush seeds collected from eastern Ontario, southwestern Quebec, and southern Nova Scotia, Canada, during September and October 1988, and planted in a greenhouse had a very low germination rate. The seeds were stratified at 39 F (4 C) for 9 months then planted in pots on 13 July 1989. Thirty days later, the germination rate of common spikerush was 8% [153]. Seeds taken from the Ottawa River, Ontario, and planted in a greenhouse had a germination rate of 5% [173].

Seedling establishment/growth: Weiher and others [174] planted common spikerush seeds in an outdoor garden mimicking marsh conditions. While the germination rate was low (5%), after 5 years of growth the seeds that germinated were firmly established and thrived in the garden.

Asexual regeneration: Common spikerush ramets harvested from field sites in Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia were successfully grown in greenhouses by researchers at the University of Ottawa [89]. Common spikerush rhizomes were taken from wetlands of Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Ontario, Canada, and planted in a greenhouse garden to investigate homogeneous growth. The common spikerush rhizomes were planted in greenhouses within common spikerush only communities and within communities consisting of 45 wetland species in May 1991. In August 1991, the common spikerush plants were harvested in both communities and the aboveground biomass was oven dried. The mean weight (grams) of common spikerush was significantly (p<=0.006) greater in stands where it grew alone (7.494 g) than when it was grown with other wetland plants (1.176 g) [89].

SITE CHARACTERISTICS:
Common spikerush occurs throughout its range in wet areas such as marshes (fresh and saline) [8,19,24,74,79,81,104,123,127,140,169,175,180,34], ephemeral ponds [10,82,123,175,34], flooded saline playas [10,74,92,161], ditches [74,79], intermittent streams [123,178], river, stream, reservoir, and lake margins [19,26,65,67,79,82,127,169,178], sloughs [123], wet meadows [169], bogs [169,180], swamps [161,169], and vernal pools [78,83]. Common spikerush is drought intolerant [166].

In Alaska and subalpine Colorado, common spikerush is found around warm springs where soils are between 59F (15 C) and 72 F (22 C) [27]. Common spikerush is listed as almost always (≥99%) occurring in wetland areas of northwestern Montana [17] and southern and eastern Idaho [65].

Climate: Common spikerush is widespread in temperate to cold temperature regions of the Northern Hemisphere [76,74,75]. Common spikerush can withstand temperature minimums of 38 F to 44 F (39 C to 42 C) [8,166], but requires at least 100 frost free days for growth [166]. Common spikerush tolerates an annual precipitation regime of 16 to 60 inches (406-1520 mm) [166].

Elevation: The elevation range of common spikerush for several locations is presented below:

Location Elevation
Arizona 150 to 6,500 feet [88]
California 0 to 8,000 feet [14,74,127]
Colorado 5,000 to 9,000 feet [10,70]
Idaho 4,700 to 9,900 feet [65,132]
Montana 2,200 to 8,120 feet [68,67]
New Mexico 3,500 to 8,000 feet [114,125]
New York (Adirondack Mtns.) 1,500 to 1,700 feet [101]
Nevada 3,000 to 8,700 feet [87,111,112]
Oregon 0 to 6,800 feet [76,97,75]
Utah 3,700 to 10,500 feet [60,175]
Washington 0 to 4,400 feet [76,38,75]

Invasive species: The nonnative tree species Russian-olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) has a detrimental effect on common spikerush. At Utah Lake, Utah, the frequency of common spikerush was significantly (p<0.05) lower on sites infested with Russian-olive than sites not infested [25]. In Colorado, common spikerush is associated with dense stands of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) [41,156].

Salt marsh characteristics: In brackish marshes near the coast, common spikerush develops rather broad and soft culms with large spikelets and dark purple to black scales. Plants from the interior may have culms as broad as the maritime form or they may be rounder and firmer with scales that are much lighter in color [115]. Common spikerush is found in fresh, slightly brackish, moderately brackish, and brackish marshes in the Prairie Potholes of North Dakota. It is particularly prevalent in slightly and moderately brackish marshes [157].

Soils: Common spikerush is adapted to coarse and fine textured soils [166]. It is commonly found on fine sand and silt soils with high organic matter content [8,120]. It can withstand anaerobic soil conditions [166] and is found on heavy clays [10]. At Utah Lake, Utah, common spikerush is found on peat beds as deep as 30 inches (76 cm) [19].

Common spikerush is tolerant of alkaline soils [76,33,59,60,66,82,75]. In the Great Basin, common spikerush occurs widely on highly calcareous or alkaline soils associated with moist or wet native meadow communities [154]. Common spikerush has a pH tolerance of 4.0 to 8.0 [8,10,20,58,166].

In southern and eastern Idaho riparian areas, common spikerush is dominant on sites which are saturated or inundated with water for much of the growing season. Litter accumulation at some sites may blend into a rich, black, organic muck soil. Upper horizon soils are generally fine silts or clays which may be 39 inches (1 m) or more in depth and arising from alluvial deposition. Sands, gravels, and cobbles are the most likely constituents of deeper subsurface materials. Soil orders may be classified as Histosols, Mollisols, and occassionally Entisols [65], in both Idaho and Montana [68].

Brotherson [20] identified 5 vegetative zones surrounding Utah Lake, Utah. General soil factors and mineral nutrients (mean s) of zone 5, where common spikerush is dominant with 47.94% cover are presented below:

Utah Lake
Sand (%) 13.073.87
Silt (%) 48.332.89
Clay (%) 38.606.75
Organic matter (%) 32.7016.81
pH 7.660.11
Soluble salts (ppm) 4,002.67351.48
Soil moisture (%) 51.73.4
Nitrogen (%) 0.2820.123
Phosphorus (%) 10.134.96
Calcium (ppm) 80,256.008,183.00
Magnesium (ppm) 685.33110.37
Sodium (ppm) 1,122.67304.56
Potassium (ppm) 576.00227.82
Iron (ppm) 1.840.32
Manganese (ppm) 10.825.74
Zinc (ppm) 0.620.12
Copper (ppm) 2.490.68

Soil measurements were taken on 219 sites were common spikerush occurs in wetlands of Nova Scotia and Ontario, Canada. Average soil factors in which common spikerush occurred are described below [58]:

Soil factor (xs x)
Organic content (%) 5.880.26
Phosphorus (mg/kg) 6.560.14
Nitrate (mg/kg) 6.480.25
Potassium (mg/kg) 111.283.18
pH 6.380.04
Magnesium (mg/kg) 286.667.99

Water table: Common spikerush is found from sea level to mid-elevations on seasonally to permanently flooded sites, often in moderate to wide valley bottoms with low gradients. Sites where common spikerush occurs are generally permanently flooded or seasonally flooded, with the water table dropping to 12 inches (30 cm) or less below the soil surface late in the season [82].

On the Middle Loup River, Nebraska, where common spikerush is dominant, it was only found on sites where the water table was between 0 to 12 inches (0-30 cm) from the soil surface [129].

Fluctuations in the water table of a marsh in Saskatchewan were measured over a 10-year period (1962-1971) to assess the effects of moisture regime changes on common spikerush monotypic stands. When the water table was within 24 inches (61 cm), no die-off of common spikerush occurred. However, as the water table dropped, common spikerush mortality increased [121].

Water table depth (inches) % common spikerush die-off
< 24 0
24 to 30 7
30.1 to 36 20
36.1 to 42 20
> 42 53

SUCCESSIONAL STATUS:
Common spikerush is shade intolerant [166] and thrives on disturbed sites [38,49,111,112,126,164,16]. It is primarily an early-seral species [8,38,65,91,111,112,118,151,16], but may be found on early, mid-, and late or "climax" successional sites [65,68,67,164].

It is found in primary successional wetlands on Mount St. Helens, Washington [38]. An analysis of vegetation 14 years following the eruption of Mount St. Helens, found common spikerush on primary and secondary successional substrate sites [164]. In the Copper River Delta of Alaska, common spikerush is an early seral species on uplifted tidal marshes (30 years after uplifting) and a primary successional species on newly uplifted tidal mudflats [16]. Common spikerush rapidly colonizes moist mineral surfaces adjacent to active stream channels following flooding disturbances in the Trout Creek Mountains of southeastern Oregon [49]. Common spikerush is described as an early-seral species on ponds with low anaerobic conditions in the Independence and Copper Ranges of the northeastern Great Basin, Nevada, and the Toiyabe and Humboldt National Forests of California and Nevada [111,112]. Medina [118] describes common spikerush as frequently occurring as a pioneer species on new streambanks, particularly in F-type stream channels (laterally unstable with high bank erosion and very high width/depth ratios caused by channel adjustments initiated by down-cutting). Common spikerush is found in early succession in 7 restored freshwater marshes in northern Indiana [91]. In 1988, 64 depressional farmed basins in northern Iowa, southern Minnesota, and southeastern North Dakota were restored to wetlands. On 15 to 19 of those sites, common spikerush was an early seral species [126].

As water levels rise in spring, common spikerush emerges as a dominant overstory species at the margin of marshes in Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, and Saskatchewan [8,151].

In southern and eastern Idaho common spikerush represents an early seral species on ponds and streambanks where water is at or above the ground surface. However, where dense growth of common spikerush is found on continually saturated soils it may represent a "climax" species given how difficult it is to displace [65]. In Montana riparian areas, common spikerush may be an early, mid-, or late seral species or a "climax" species [68,67].

SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT:
Common spikerush is a warm season species with rapid rhizomatous growth in mid- and late summer in aquatic locations [159,166]. Common spikerush begins blooming in late spring [61,94,166], begins seed production mid-summer [61,94], and ends flowering in late summer to early fall [76,123,127,140,75]. The flowering period for common spikerush in several states/regions is presented below:

State/Region Flowering Period
California April to November [127]
Illinois June to September [123]
Nevada June to August [87]
North Carolina July to September [140]
South Carolina July to September [140]
Texas May/June to October [39]
West Virginia June to September [161]
Adirondack Mountains June to August/September [101]
Blue Ridge Mountains July to October [180]
New England June to September [150]
Northern Great Plains (aquatic and wetland zones) June to August [104]
Pacific Northwest May to August [76,75]
Baja California April to September [178]

The phenology of common spikerush in 1936 and 1937 at San Joaquin Experimental Range, California, is presented below [61]:

Growth stage 1936 1937
Just before flowering 3 April

---

Green, in early bloom

---

8 April
Green, full bloom 8 May 18 May
Green, seeds mature 13 June

---

Green, seeds mature,  none cast

---

14 June
Dry, some seeds cast 10 September

---

Common spikerush average height, growth stage, and average water table depth during 4 periods in 1985 and 1986 at the Central Grasslands Research Station, North Dakota, are presented below [94]:

Date Height (cm) Growth stage Water table depth (cm)
Late spring (21 May-10 June) 21 Bloom 14
Early summer (21 June-11 July) 49 Bloom 7
Mid-summer (21 July-4 August) 52 Seed 9
Late summer (15 August-18 September) 48 Post-ripe 1

FIRE ECOLOGY

SPECIES: Eleocharis palustris
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS:
Fire adaptations: Common spikerush is fire tolerant when dormant [166] and top-killed by fire during the growing season [98,183]. Common spikerush establishes after fire through seed and/or lateral spread by rhizomes [96,98,121,183].

Fire regimes: Common spikerush occurs in wetlands where the fire frequency may differ greatly from surrounding communities or ecosystems listed in the table below. There is very little research on the fire return interval of wetlands that support common spikerush. There is some research on the fire return interval for the northern cordgrass prairie where common spikerush occurs. Frost [53,54] identifies a fire frequency of 1 to 12 years in saline and brackish marshes. In Landfire's Rapid Assessment Reference Condition model of the northern cordgrass prairie, mean occurrence of stand-replacement fires is 7 years, with a range of 2 to 50 years. Stand-replacement fires account for 97% of fires in the northern cordgrass prairie. The other 3% are mixed-severity fires, which occur very infrequently. Fire regimes in the northern cordgrass prairies vary widely because the probability of ignition is affected by the presence of open water channels, connection to uplands, and the natural fire regime of adjacent uplands. Northern cordgrass prairie marsh island likely would have been fire free unless ignited by Native Americans [103]. Common spikerush occurs in Louisiana salt marshes, where lightning fires may occur several times per year [56,130]. The following table provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where common spikerush is important. For further information, see the FEIS review of the dominant species listed below.

Community or ecosystem Dominant species Fire return interval range (years)
bluestem prairie Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium <10 [99,133]
bluestem-Sacahuista prairie Andropogon littoralis-Spartina spartinae <10 [133]
silver sagebrush steppe Artemisia cana 5-45 [73,138,181]
sagebrush steppe Artemisia tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata 20-70 [133]
basin big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata 12-43 [147]
mountain big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana 15-40 [6,23,122]
Wyoming big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis 10-70 (=40) [168,182]
saltbush-greasewood Atriplex confertifolia-Sarcobatus vermiculatus <35 to <100 [133]
desert grasslands Bouteloua eriopoda and/or Pleuraphis mutica 10 to <100 [117,133]
plains grasslands Bouteloua spp. <35 [133,181]
blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass Bouteloua gracilis-Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii <35 [133,146,181]
blue grama-buffalo grass Bouteloua gracilis-Buchloe dactyloides <35 [133,181]
grama-galleta steppe Bouteloua gracilis-Pleuraphis jamesii <35 to <100
blue grama-tobosa prairie Bouteloua gracilis-Pleuraphis mutica <35 to <100 [133]
cheatgrass Bromus tectorum <10 [135,176]
blackbrush Coleogyne ramosissima <35 to <100
northern cordgrass prairie Distichlis spicata-Spartina spp. 1-3 [133]
California steppe Festuca-Danthonia spp. <35 [133,162]
black ash Fraxinus nigra <35 to 200 [170]
western juniper Juniperus occidentalis 20-70
Rocky Mountain juniper Juniperus scopulorum <35 [133]
western larch Larix occidentalis 25-350 [5,12,36]
creosotebush Larrea tridentata <35 to <100 [133]
yellow-poplar Liriodendron tulipifera <35 [170]
Everglades Mariscus jamaicensis <10 [128]
wheatgrass plains grasslands Pascopyrum smithii <5-47+ [133,138,181]
Great Lakes spruce-fir Picea-Abies spp. 35 to >200
northeastern spruce-fir Picea-Abies spp. 35-200 [45]
southeastern spruce-fir Picea-Abies spp. 35 to >200 [170]
pinyon-juniper Pinus-Juniperus spp. <35 [133]
Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine* Pinus contorta var. latifolia 25-340 [11,12,163]
Sierra lodgepole pine* Pinus contorta var. murrayana 35-200 [4]
Colorado pinyon Pinus edulis 10-400+ [51,90,133,62]
Pacific ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa 1-47 [4]
interior ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum 2-30 [4,9,106]
galleta-threeawn shrubsteppe Pleuraphis jamesii-Aristida purpurea <35 to <100
eastern cottonwood Populus deltoides <35 to 200 [133]
quaking aspen-paper birch Populus tremuloides-Betula papyrifera 35-200 [45,170]
quaking aspen (west of the Great Plains) Populus tremuloides 7-120 [4,64,119]
mountain grasslands Pseudoroegneria spicata 3-40 (=10) [3,4]
Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir* Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca 25-100 [4,6,7]
coastal Douglas-fir* Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii 40-240 [4,124,144]
California mixed evergreen Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii-Lithocarpus densiflorus-Arbutus menziesii <35
California oakwoods Quercus spp. <35 [4]
little bluestem-grama prairie Schizachyrium scoparium-Bouteloua spp. <35
tule marshes Scirpus and/or Typha spp. <35
southern cordgrass prairie Spartina alterniflora 1-3 [133]
*fire return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species review

POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY [158]:
Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil
Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)
Initial off-site colonizer (off-site, initial community)
Secondary colonizer (on-site or off-site seed sources)

FIRE EFFECTS

SPECIES: Eleocharis palustris
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT:
Fire top-kills common spikerush [98,183]. Since common spikerush is generally found on saturated or flooded sites, underground rhizomes usually remain undamaged and the plant survives [98,121].


DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT:

No additional information is available on this topic.

PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE:
Little research has been done on common spikerush's response to fire. Common spikerush tolerates pioneer conditions [8,38,65,91,111,112,118,151,16], such as burned sites [121]. Common spikerush seed dispersal onto burned sites in wetlands is primarily effected by water, mud, and animals (particularly birds) [40,85]. In nonhydrologic areas, common spikerush seeds may be dispersed onto burn sites by wind [38]. At Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon, Young [183] found that aboveground standing biomass of common spikerush significantly (p<0.05) increased 9 and 21 months postfire. Kost and De Steven [96] found that fire caused a significant (p<0.05) increase in common spikerush several months after a burn, but by postfire years 2 and 3 common spikerush cover was equal to that of unburned sites. Kovalich and Clausnitzer [98] assert that common spikerush resprouts quickly following a summer or fall fire, when growth is reinitiated in spring.

DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE:
Prescribed fire increased common spikerush biomass the 2 years after treatment in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon. On 20 October 1981, a monotypic common spikerush wetlands community was burned under prescription. The preburn fuels, weather conditions, fire behavior, and fire effects during the experimental prescribed burn are presented below:

Mean preburn fire fuel load (g/m)* Fuel height (cm) Litter height (cm) Fuel moisture (%) Temperature (C) Relative humidity (%) Wind speed (km/hr)
550 (389-805) 12 6 3.7 16-23 13-17 3-16
*Range in parenthesis

Fire rate of spread (m/min) Flame length (m) Fire intensity (KW/m) Postburn residual fuels (g/m)* Reduction of fuels (%)
Head fire Backfire Head fire Backfire Head fire Backfire
20-30 1-1.5 1.5-3.5 1-1.5 3031-6272 152-314 33 (0-96) 94
*Range in parenthesis

During the following 2 summers, vegetation samplings were taken within the burned and nonburned common spikerush communities. Young [183] found that the aboveground standing crop (g/m) and shoot density (m) of common spikerush significantly (p<0.05) increased on burned sites compared with unburned sites:

  July 1982* July 1983*
Burned Unburned Burned Unburned
Aboveground standing crop ~650 ~400 ~650 ~400
Shoot density ~2,800 ~1,800 ~2,000 ~2,500
*Numbers are interpreted from a bar graph

Young also found that fire had no significant effect on the number of reproductive shoots of common spikerush or the average height the summer following fire [183].

Prescription fire in a Wisconsin wetland caused a short term increase in common spikerush cover. In early spring 1994, The Nature Conservancy burned wetlands at Lulu Lake, Wisconsin. The wetlands at Lulu Lake are predominately sedge (Carex spp.) species and common spikerush. When vegetation cover was sampled 3 to 4 months later, common spikerush cover was 7.6% on burned sites and 1.3% on unburned sites. However, by postfire years 1 and 2, percent cover dropped to 0.2% and 1.1%, respectively, which was not significantly (p<0.05) different than the control site (1.3%) [96].

FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Invasive species: If fire is chosen as a tool for common spikerush, managers should be cognizant of potential negative effects on associated or surrounding vegetation. For instance, common spikerush is a dominant species at Utah Lake, Utah [19]. In the past several decades the area has been infested by saltcedar (Tamarix ramosissma), which is highly fire tolerant and may expand after disturbances such as fire and severely reduce native plant coverage [110]. In Colorado, common spikerush is commonly associated with dense stands of Canada thistle [41,156]. Managers should be careful using fire as a management tool where Canada thistle exists, because it may expand after disturbances such as fire and severely reduce native plant coverage [13,116,131,149].

Wildlife: Common spikerush provides important cover and to a lesser extent a source of food for waterfowl species in southeastern and Gulf Coast salt marshes and western riparian areas (see Importance to Livestock and Wildlife). Thus, burning salt marshes where common spikerush occurs may be detrimental to waterfowl.


MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

SPECIES: Eleocharis palustris
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE:
Common spikerush is of minimal importance to livestock [65]. In riparian areas, the seasonally wet conditions and low palatability of common spikerush limit its grazing value, even in years of drought where upland forage dries early and dies [65]. However, Kovalchik and Clausnitzer [98] suggests that in drought years common spikerush may be used more heavily than in nondrought years. Common spikerush does provide heavy forage for cattle in the California foothills in wet meadow swales [14].

Ungulates: In northwestern/southwestern Montana, common spikerush provides fair food for elk and mule deer, but poor food for whitetailed-deer and pronghorn [17,68].

Waterfowl/small mammals: Common spikerush is an important source of food for waterfowl. The seeds, stems, and rhizomes of common spikerush are an important food source for a variety of North American waterfowl, marsh, and shorebirds [113]. Common spikerush is described as a "good" source of food for waterfowl at Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, South Dakota [48]. Common spikerush is an important food source for a variety of duck species at Prince Albert District, Saskatchewan [55]. In northwestern/southwestern Montana, common spikerush provides poor food value for upland game, fair for small nongame birds and small mammals, and good food for waterfowl [17,68]. In the Potholes Area of eastern Washington, common spikerush plant material was identified in 40.0% of the stomachs of several duck species [71]. Common spikerush provides food for nutria in Louisiana [93] and Maryland [179] marshes. Common spikerush is a very minor food source for cottontail rabbits in Missouri [95].

Palatability/nutritional value: The palatability of common spikerush is low [82,166]. Boggs and others [17] and Hansen and others [68] list the palatability of common spikerush for cattle, domestic sheep, and horses in northwestern Montana as poor. The palatability of common spikerush is very low in Idaho and Montana riparian zones [65,66,68].

Common spikerush is listed as having fair energy value, but poor protein value in northwestern/southwestern Montana [17,68] and southern and eastern Idaho [65].

The nutritional content (% dry weight) of common spikerush at different life stages during 2 years at San Joaquin Experimental Range, California, are presented below [61]:

Year Life stage Ash Silica Silica-free ash Calcium P K Crude protein Crude fiber
1936 Just before flowering 10.78 2.43 8.35 0.598 0.310 3.16 18.22 25.80
Green, full bloom 13.38 7.81 5.57 0.432 0.192 2.59 8.87 27.19
Green, seeds mature 15.42 10.33 5.09 0.443 0.148 2.38 9.02 27.76
Dry, some seeds cast 17.26 12.33 4.93 0.742 0.158 2.43 5.03 32.42
1937 Green, in early bloom 12.41 5.68 6.73 0.388 0.328 2.98 15.84 27.12
Green, full bloom 14.0 8.28 5.72 0.291 0.192 2.83 8.17 30.87
Green, seeds mature,  none cast 14.04 8.66 5.38 0.248 0.142 2.65 6.88 29.15

Cover value: Common spikerush provides cover for a variety of waterfowl and small mammals. Stands of common spikerush are listed as "good" cover for waterfowl at Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, South Dakota [48]. Common spikerush communities along the Columbia River Hanford Reach section, Washington, support brood rearing habitat for Canada geese [69]. In northwestern/southwestern Montana, common spikerush provides fair cover for upland game birds, small nongame birds, and small mammals, and good cover for waterfowl [17,68]. Muskrat mounds are numerous in common spikerush dominated marshes at Huntingdon Marsh, Quebec [8]. Low marshy areas with common spikerush provide cover for the jumping mouse [137]. Ponds with abundant common spikerush located 6 miles (10 km) east of Moscow, Idaho, support the Pacific treefrog, northern long-toed salamander, western toad, and the spotted frog [148].

VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
Common spikerush has high erosion control potential in riparian and wetland areas [17,68,82,112,177].

From 15 to 25 March, 1994, 18 common spikerush wetland plugs were harvested from Haskell-Baker Wetlands, Kansas, using a 20-inch (50-cm) diameter tree spade and transplanted to Santa Fe Wetlands, Kansas. Survival rate of common spikerush plugs was over 90%. The mean area of common spikerush plugs in October 1994 was 7.19 feet (0.67 m) and increased annually to reach 86.6 foot (8 m) 3 years later. Common spikerush growth was significantly (p<0.05) greater on sites where the water table was 8.3 to 16 inches (21-40 cm) below soil surface [52].

Over 1 million acres (400,000 ha) of Kansas farmland is salt-affected. The Nature Conservancy has successfully used common spikerush to rehabilitate moist basins in the Cheyenne Bottoms of Kansas [92].

There is 1 common spikerush cultivar available ('Common') [165].

OTHER USES:
No information is available on this topic.

OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Grazing: Heavy grazing of common spikerush in riparian areas may create conditions that allow for the increase and spread of common spikerush onto adjacent sites [66,82]. Common spikerush is highly susceptible to trampling in wetland areas [68,112].


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