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Neat Spike-rush (Eleocharis nitida)

Life history

Species overview

Neat Spike-rush (Eleocharis nitida), a Wisconsin Endangered plant, is found on wet exposed clay in ditches and openings in alder thickets and marshes, only near Superior. Blooming occurs throughout June; fruiting occurs late June through early September. The optimal identification period for this species is late June through late August.

Synonyms: Eleocharis tenuis


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Distinguished by the combination of spikelets that are wider than the stem, achenes which are 3-angled and dark yellow or orange.
  • Flower characteristics: Spikelets ovoid, acutish, 1.5 to 4.5 mm long, 1.5 to 3 mm wide, loosely flowered; anthers .5 to .7 mm long; bristles absent.
  • Fruit characteristics: Achenes pale yellow, becoming orange, sharply 3-angled, very minutely wrinkled, .7to .8 mm long, persistent; tubercle a depressed saucer with centralapiculation.
  • Leaf characteristics: Culms tufted or scattered, delicately capillary, 4-angled, 2 to 10 cm high; basal sheaths close, greenish or yellowish, scarcely darkened at summit.


  • Blooming phenology: throughout June
  • Fruiting phenology: late June through early September
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is late June through late August


  • Growth form: Graminoid
  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomatous
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Alnus rugosa, Salix petiolaris, Cornus stolonifera, Petasites sagittatus, Calamagrostis canadensis, Sparganium glomeratum, Juncus spp.

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 Neat Spike-rush (Eleocharis nitida). 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 Eleocharis nitida in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG4
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 wet exposed clay in ditches and openings in alder thickets and marshes, only near Superior.
  • Soils: Wet soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Neat Spike-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).

Ecological landscapes

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

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological landscape score
Superior Coastal Plain 3

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 broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • 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.

Management guidance

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

  • Prescribed burns and/or brushing may be beneficial (dependent on local site conditions).
  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.
  • 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.
  • Maintain and restore open habitat through selective clearing and brushing.


Neat Spike-rush Photo.

Photo © Emmet Judziewicz.

Neat Spike-rush Photo.

Photo © Emmet Judziewicz.

Neat Spike-rush Photo.

Photo © Daniel Spuhler.

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: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
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