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Brown Beak-rush (Rhynchospora fusca)

Life history

Species overview

Brown Beak-rush (Rhynchospora fusca), a State Special Concern plant, is found on very wet bog and fen mats, often near Lake Superior. Blooming occurs throughout June; fruiting occurs throughout July. The optimal identification period for this species is late June through early August.

Synonyms: Schoenus fuscus


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Achenes uniformly pale brown; colonial by slender rhizomes.
  • Flower characteristics: Inflorescence of 1 to 3 top-shaped or ovoid glomerules 10 to 15 mm long by 5 to 12 mm wide; spikelets 4 to 6 mm, dark brown, with 2 to 3 flowers
  • Fruit characteristics: Achenes obovate or triangular-obovate to pear-shaped, 1.1 to 1.4 mm and three-fourths as wide, light brown, smooth.
  • Leaf characteristics: Very slender, involute, mostly shorter than the stems.


  • Blooming phenology: throughout June
  • Fruiting phenology: throughout July
  • Optimum time to identify: late June through early August


  • Growth form: Graminoid
  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomatous
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Cladium mariscoides, Utricularia cornuta, Carex lasiocarpa, Triglochin maritimum, Platanthera clavellata, P. dilatata, Pogonia ophioglossoides, Calopogon tuberosus, Myrica gale.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Brown Beak-rush (Rhynchospora fusca). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Rhynchospora fusca in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of March 2012.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG4G5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found on very wet bog and fen mats, often near Lake Superior.
  • Soils: Wet soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Brown Beak-rush. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Boreal Rich Fen 3
Poor Fen 2
Shore Fen 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Brown Beak-rush. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Survey for and control invasive plants prior to conducting timber operations, as these can be spread by vehicles and often respond vigorously to increased light; see forestry BMPs for invasive species.
  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.
  • This species is likely sensitive to water quality. Following BMPs around streams and buffering associated drainages will reduce eutrophication and prevent water quality degradation.
  • Avoid rapid and dramatic reductions in canopy cover or basal area in wet areas to reduce risk of swamping.


Brown Beak-rush  [Photo #23456]

Photo © Emmet Judziewicz.

Brown Beak-rush  [Photo #5385]

BCPL Site Springstead.

Photo © Robert Wernerehl.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition