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Tufted Bulrush (Trichophorum cespitosum)

Life history

Species overview

Tufted Bulrush (Trichophorum cespitosum), a Wisconsin Threatened plant, is found in fens, sedge meadows, and wet swales of old beach ridges. Blooming occurs early June through early August; fruiting occurs late June through late August. The optimal identification period for this species is early June through late August.

Synonyms: Baeothryon cespitosum, Scirpus cespitosus, Trichophorum caespitosum


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Distinguished by its solitary spikelet, lack of a conspicuous, leaf-like bract subtending the spikelet, round stem and cespitose habit.
  • Flower characteristics: 1 spikelet, terminal, brown, 4 to 6 mm, several-flowered, 2 or 3 empty scales at the base, often deciduous as the spikelet approaches full maturity; lowest scale with a prominent, broad, blunt awn (1 to 3 mm) that may shortly surpass the spikelet; anthers 1.1 to 2.5 mm.
  • Fruit characteristics: Achene three-angled, brown, 1.5 to 1.7 mm, with a small, slender point at the tip.
  • Leaf characteristics: Several conspicuous, light brown scale-leaves at the base; a single, more normal leaf a little higher having a typical sheath but a slender blade only 4 to 6 mm.


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


  • Growth form: Graminoid
  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomatous
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Carex lanuginosa, C. stricta, Betula pumila, Sarracenia purpurea, Calamagrostis canadensis, Cladium mariscoides, Drosera rotundifolia, Lobelia kalmii, Potentilla fruticosa, Solidago ohioensis.

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 Tufted Bulrush (Trichophorum cespitosum). 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 Trichophorum cespitosum 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 fens, sedge meadows, and wet swales of old beach ridges.
  • Soils: Wet, calcareous to acidic soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Tufted Bulrush. 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 Tufted Bulrush. 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 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

  • This species is likely sensitive to water quality. Following BMPs around streams and buffering associated drainages will reduce eutrophication and prevent water quality degradation.
  • Maintain and restore open habitat through selective clearing and brushing.
  • 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.


Tufted Bulrush Photo.

Photo © Emmet Judziewicz.

Tufted Bulrush Photo.

Photo by Ryan O'Connor, Wisconsin DNR.

Tufted Bulrush Photo.

Photo by Ryan O'Connor, Wisconsin DNR.

Tufted Bulrush Photo.

Photo by Ryan O'Connor, 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