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Beaked Spike-rush (Eleocharis rostellata)

Life history

Species overview

Beaked Spike-rush (Eleocharis rostellata), a Wisconsin Threatened plant, is found in calcareous fens, often on bare shoreline marl flats. Blooming occurs early June through early October; fruiting occurs late June through mid October. The optimal identification period for this species is early August through early October.

Synonyms: Eleocharis rostellata var. congdonii, Eleocharis rostellata var. occidentalis, Scirpus rostellatus


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Distinguished from other Eleocharis sp. by its tubercle, which is not constricted at the base and thus does not form a distinct cap atop the achene.
  • Flower characteristics: Spikelets oblong, tapered at both ends, wider than the stem; sepals and petals reduced to 4 to 8 barbed bristles; style 3-parted.
  • Fruit characteristics: Achenes olive to brown, rounded 3-angled; tubercle cone-shaped, joined with the achene body and beaklike.
  • Leaf characteristics: Stems flattened, wiry, 3 to 10 dm long and 1 to 2 mm wide; the fertile stems upright, the sterile stems often arching and rooting at tip.


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


  • Growth form: Graminoid
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Gentianopsis procera, Rhynchospora capillacea, Tofieldia glutinosa, Potentilla fruticosa, Scirpus acutus, Untricularia intermedia, U. minor, Bidens cernua, Aster borealis, Parnassia glauca.

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

Summary Information
State StatusTHR
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG5
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 in calcareous fens, often on bare shoreline marl flats.
  • Soils: Wet, calcareous soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Beaked 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).

Natural communities score
Calcareous Fen 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Beaked 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
Northeast Sands 1
Southeast Glacial Plains 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

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


Beaked Spike-rush Photo.

Photo © Robert H. Read.

Beaked Spike-rush Photo.

Photo ©  Wisconsin DNR.

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