Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Schoenoplectus americanus


SPECIES: Schoenoplectus americanus
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Uchytil, Ronald J. 1992. Schoenoplectus americanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. ABBREVIATION : SCHAME SYNONYMS : Scirpus americanus Pers. [6,10,31] Scirpus olneyi A. Gray SCS PLANT CODE : SCHAM6 COMMON NAMES : Olney's threesquare bulrush Olney's three-square Olney bulrush Olney's tule three-cornered grass three-cornered sedge three square sedge bayonet rush chairmaker's bulrush TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of Olney's three-square bulrush is Schoenoplectus americanus (Pers.) Volk (Cyperaceae) [34,35]. The taxonomy of Olney three-square bulrush is somewhat confusing because of the consistent misapplication of scientific names within the genus for many years [24]. LIFE FORM : Graminoid FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : No entry


SPECIES: Schoenoplectus americanus
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Although Olney's three-square bulrush is sporadically distributed from Nova Scotia to Washington state and south to South America, it grows primarily along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and in arid western states [28]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES29 Sagebrush FRES30 Desert shrub FRES38 Plains grasslands FRES41 Wet grasslands STATES : AL AR AZ CA CT DE FL GA ID KS LA MA MD MI MS NC NH NJ NM NV NY OH OK OR RI SC TX UT VA WA NS MEXICO BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 3 Southern Pacific Border 4 Sierra Mountains 5 Columbia Plateau 6 Upper Basin and Range 7 Lower Basin and Range 9 Middle Rocky Mountains 14 Great Plains KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K033 Chaparral K040 Saltbush - greasewood K041 Creosotebush K042 Creosotebush - bursage K049 Tule marshes K055 Sagebrush steppe K073 Northern cordgrass prairie K078 Southern cordgrass prairie K098 Northern floodplain forest SAF COVER TYPES : 222 Black cottonwood - willow 235 Cottonwood - willow SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Olney's three-square bulrush forms nearly monodominant stands in some marshes. In coastal areas it is most abundant in brackish marshes and is commonly associated with seashore saltgrass (Distichlis spicata var. spicata), marshhay cordgrass (Spartina patens), big cordgrass (S. cynosuroides), smooth cordgrass (S. alterniflora), and saltmarsh bulrush (Scirpus robustus) [20,28]. In desert regions of the West, Olney's three-square bulrush often dominates or codominates slightly to moderately saline marshes bordering lakes or springs. Codominants of western marshes include creeping spikerush (Eleocharis palustris), Nebraska sedge (Carex nebraskensis), inland saltgrass (Distichlis spicata var. stricta), berula (Berula erecta), and marsh yellowcress (Rorippa islandica) [3,26,32]. Olney's three-square bulrush dominated communities are described in the following publications: Aquatic and semiaquatic vegetation of Utah Lake and its bays [3] Plant ecology of spring-fed salt marshes in western Utah [2]


SPECIES: Schoenoplectus americanus
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Olney's three-square bulrush rhizomes are a preferred food of muskrat, and Canada and snow goose [15,20,28]. It is sometimes an important nutria food source. Olney's three-square bulrush stands serve as primary wintering grounds for the snow goose, where this plant makes up about 90 percent of the goose's diet. Where geese or muskrat populations are high, use by these animals can be so great that they cause "eat outs"; that is, they destroy large areas of Olney's three-square bulrush vegetation by consuming all the rootstocks and rhizomes [28]. The seeds are eaten by wintering ducks in the South but generally make up only a small part of the diet [28]. Deer regularly feed on species of Scirpus. In terms of volume consumed, Olney's three-square bulrush ranked second among 50 plant species fed to captive deer in Louisiana [28]. PALATABILITY : Olney's three-square bulrush rhizomes are highly palatable to the muskrat, nutria, Canada goose, and snow goose [28]. In the South, Olney's three-square bulrush is moderately palatable to cattle. Tender, young shoots are most attractive [28]. Palatability was rated as follows in Utah: poor for sheep, horses, elk, mule deer, and pronghorn; fair for cattle, upland game birds, and small nongame birds; and good for waterfowl and small mammals [7]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : Olney's three-square bulrush regularly provides good nesting habitat for many species of rails [28]. In Utah, cover value has been rated as fair for upland game birds and good for waterfowl, small nongame birds, and small mammals [7]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Olney's three-square bulrush is used in saltmarsh revegetation programs. The best place to initiate new stands is probably in brackish areas where salinities range from 5 to 10 parts per thousand and water depths range from 0 to 4 inches (0-10 cm) [11]. Stands are best established by planting rootstocks 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) below the soil surface in winter at a spacing of about 6 by 6 feet (1.8 by 1.8 m). Water depths need to be maintained at 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) above the soil surface for 3 to 4 weeks after planting but can fluctuate thereafter. Muskrat and nutria need to be controlled on planted areas because they can severely reduce planting stock. For a detailed discussion on site preparation and planting techniques see Sipple [28] and Ross and Chabreck [23]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : NO-ENTRY OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Management and maintenance of Olney's three-square bulrush stands depends primarily on maintenance of water levels and secondarily on salinity levels. Maximum survival and growth in coastal areas occur where average minimum yearly water levels do not fall below 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) above the soil surface [23]. Olney's three-square bulrush increases under light to moderate cattle grazing. Under heavy grazing, however, it is replaced by less palatable species such as seashore saltgrass, black rush (Juncus roemerianus), and seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) [4,28].


SPECIES: Schoenoplectus americanus
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Olney's three-square bulrush is a coarse, rhizomatous, perennial sedge. It has erect, sharply triangular and deeply concave-sided culms growing up to 5 feet in height (1.5 m) [10,21]. It generally bears only a few short leaves up to about 4 inches long (10 cm) which arise from the lower part of the culm. The inflorescence consists of a cluster of 5 to 12 sessile, crowded spikelets [28]. Rhizomes are located within 6 inches (15 cm) of the soil surface [28]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Geophyte Helophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Sexual reproduction: Olney's three-square bulrush seed production has been variously reported as very poor to heavy, with seed yields ranging from 0 to 24 pounds per acre (0-27 kg/ha) [28]. The seeds undergo a long period of afterripening, often requiring 18 months or more before germination can occur. The seeds remain dormant as long as they are submerged in water and thus become a component of the marsh seed bank. Germination and seedling establishment potentially occur on exposed mudflats following marsh drawdown, yet seedling establishment under these natural conditions appears to be rare [19]. Under laboratory conditions, maximum germination of only 25 percent was achieved in distilled water under fluctuating temperatures between 68 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit (20-35 deg C) [20]. Germination decreased with increasing salinity with a 50 percent reduction at 4 parts per thousand (ppt) and no germination at above 13 ppt [20]. Vegetative regeneration: Olney's three-square bulrush perennates and spreads by rhizomes, which is primarily responsible for the maintenance and expansion of stands. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : In coastal regions, Olney's three-square bulrush grows primarily on peat in brackish tidal marshes, where soil salinities range from 2 to 17 ppt, and water levels range from -2 to +4 inches (-5 to +10 cm) [11,18]. Inland, it primarily grows in marshes, wet meadows, and playas that are somewhat alkaline, but also grows in fresh water [6]. In an alkali meadow in Utah, Olney's three-square bulrush dominated the area surrounding the water source (a spring), but became rarer farther away from the spring, and was replaced by inland saltgrass and creeping spikerush as water depth decreased and salinity increased [26]. At this Utah meadow, soils under Olney's three-square bulrush stands had higher levels of organic matter and phosphorus than other marsh plant communities. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Obligate Initial Community Species (Gulf Coast) Obligate Climax Species (Atlantic Coast and western U.S.) The successional status of Olney's three-square bulrush varies regionally. Along the Gulf coast, it is a seral species, and gives way to seashore saltgrass and marshhay cordgrass in the absence of periodic (every few years) burning or other disturbance. In Utah, Olney's three-square bulrush is considered climax. Referring to Olney's three-square bulrush stands at Fish Springs, Utah, Bolen [2] stated the "stands contain no other marsh species of comparable status and are considered to represent closed stands of vegetation. It is completely successful in its niche and competition from other communities and/or species was not observed." Along the East Coast, Olney's three-square bulrush forms climax stands that are apparently maintained more by the slowly rising sea level than by fire [28]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : In Louisiana, Olney's three-square bulrush begins spring growth in March when soil temperatures 4 inches (10 cm) below the soil surface reach 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 deg C) [11,19]. Culms grow at a uniform rate until August, but by October, nearly all the culms are dead. A small percentage of the culms remain green throughout the winter [19]. In Utah, spring growth began on March 27 in marshes near warm springs, and on April 14 in marshes far-removed from warm water [2]. Flowering and fruit production dates are as follows: Delaware - flowers from early June to September [28] New England - flowers from July 20 to August 8 [25] Louisiana - flowering begins in late March and is finished by late May. Seeds are ripe by the end of June. Seedfall begins in mid-July [19]. North and South Carolina - flowers from June to September [21] Utah - flowers in early May [2]


SPECIES: Schoenoplectus americanus
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Olney's three-square bulrush's rhizomes are sufficiently buried in soil, sometimes up to 6 inches (15 cm), and are thus well protected from the heat of fire. Additionally, the plants often grow in shallow water which further insulates the underground regenerative structures. Olney's three-square bulrush seedling establishment after fire has not been reported. However, field studies show that Olney's three-square bulrush seeds stored in the soil are not injured by marsh fires. Palmisano [19] found that seeds subjected to marsh fires, whether placed on a moist, but unsaturated soil surface or buried 1 inch (2.5 cm) below the soil surface had slightly higher germination rates than seeds not subjected to fire. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil


SPECIES: Schoenoplectus americanus
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Only aboveground (or abovewater) plant parts of Olney's three-square bulrush are removed by fire when water levels are aboveground or only slightly below the soil surface. Thus the plant survives most fires because perennating underground organs are not harmed. However, under severe drought conditions, fire can burn deep into peat layers and kill Olney's three-square bulrush by charring or consuming the rhizomes . DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : In comparison with marshhay cordgrass, Olney's three-square bulrush's rhizomes are more deeply buried in the soil. If burned when marsh soils are dry, Olney's three-square bulrush typically suffers much lower rates of mortality where these plants grow in mixed stands [12]. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Olney's three-square bulrush often sprouts within a week of burning [11,12]. In Louisiana, Olney's three-square bulrush culm density reached or exceeded preburn density within 4 weeks of burning whether burned in October, December, or February [5]. Another study in Louisiana similarly found that burning during different seasons had no effect on Olney's three-square bulrush culm density [11]. In this study, plants quickly sprouted whether burned in fall, winter, or spring as long as water levels were even with or slightly above the soil surface at the time of burning. However, maximum leaf growth occurred in March and April when soil temperatures rose above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 C), no matter what time of year plants were burned. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : The Research Project Summary Vegetative response to fire exclusion and prescribed fire rotation on 2 Maryland salt marshes provides information on prescribed fire and postfire response of plant community species, including Olney's three-square bulrush, that was not available when this species review was written. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Marshhay cordgrass outcompetes and replaces Olney's three-square bulrush in Gulf Coast brackish marshes that remain unburned for a few to several years. In a Louisiana brackish marsh, Olney's three-square bulrush was "weeded out" by marshhay cordgrass after just 3 years of fire protection [28]. Prescribed burning every 2 or 3 years, however, maintains subclimax stands of Olney's three-square bulrush [12]. For Louisiana coastal marshes, O'Neil [18] recommended burning Olney's three-square bulrush stands anytime from October 10 to January 1 when water levels are between 0 and 2 inches (0-5 cm) above the soil surface.


SPECIES: Schoenoplectus americanus
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Early vegetal succession following large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires. In: Proceedings, Tall Timbers fire ecology conference and Intermountain Fire Research Council fire and land management symposium; 1974 October 8-10; Missoula, MT. No. 14. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 355-373. [1496] 17. Myers, Kent E. 1956. Management of needlerush marsh at the Chassahowitzka Refuge. Proceedings Annual Conf. Southeast. Assoc. Game and Fish Comm. 9: 175-177. [17807] 18. O'Neil, Ted. 1949. The muskrat in the Louisiana coastal marshes. New Orleans, LA: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Fish and Game Division, Federal Aid Section. 152 p. [18182] 19. Palmisano, A. W. 1967. thesis. thesis. [18980] 20. Palmisano, Angelo W., Jr.; Newsom, John D. 1968. Ecological factors affecting occurrence of Scirpus olneyi and Scirpus robustus in the Louisiana coastal marshes. Proceedings, 21st Annual Conference of Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commissions. 21: 161-172. [15303] 21. Radford, Albert E.; Ahles, Harry E.; Bell, C. Ritchie. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1183 p. [7606] 22. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843] 23. Ross, William M.; Chabreck, R. H. 1972. Factors affecting the growth and survival of natural and planted stands of Scirpus olneyi. Proceedings, Annual Conference of Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commissioners. 26: 178-188. [18181] 24. Schuyler, Alfred E. 1974. Typification and application of the names Scirpus americanus Pers., S. olneyi Gray, and S. Pungens Vahl. Rhodora. 76: 51-52. [18180] 25. Seymour, Frank Conkling. 1982. The flora of New England. 2d ed. Phytologia Memoirs 5. Plainfield, NJ: Harold N. Moldenke and Alma L. Moldenke. 611 p. [7604] 26. Shupe, J. B.; Brotherson, J. D.; Rushforth, S. R. 1986. Patterns of vegetation surrounding springs in Goshen Bay, Utah County, Utah, U.S.A. Hydrobiologia. 139: 97-107. [17321] 27. Singleton, J. R. 1951. Production and utilization of waterfowl food plants on the east Texas Gulf Coast. Journal of Wildlife Management. 15(1): 46-56. [14536] 28. Sipple, William S. 1979. A review of the biology, ecology, and management of Scirpus olneyi. Vol. II: a synthesis of selected references. Wetland Publication No. 4. Annapolis, MD: Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Water Resources Administration, Wetlands Permit Division. 85 p. [20021] 29. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982. National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names. SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. [11573] 30. Vogl, Richard J.; McHargue, Lawrence T. 1966. Vegetation of California fan palm oases on the San Andreas Fault. Ecology. 47(4): 532-540. [3044] 31. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944] 32. Williams, Jack E.; Kobetich, Gail C.; Benz, Carl T. 1984. Management aspects of relict populations inhabiting the Amargosa Canyon ecosystem. In: Warner, Richard E.; Hendrix, Kathleen M., eds. Proceedings, California riparian systems conference; 1981 September 17-19; Davis, California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press: 706-715. [18979] 33. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p. [20090] 34. Kartesz, John T.; Meacham, Christopher A. 1999. Synthesis of the North American flora (Windows Version 1.0), [CD-ROM]. Available: North Carolina Botanical Garden. 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