E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Eleocharis palustris (L.) Roem. & Schult.
common spike-rush (common spikerush; creeping spike-rush)
Cyperaceae (Sedge family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Jamie Fenneman  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #10029)

E-Flora BC Static Map
Distribution of Eleocharis palustris
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Species Information

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Perennial herb from freely branching rhizomes; stems scattered or in small clusters, slender to very stout, circular in cross-section, tapered or somewhat flattened, 10-100 cm tall.
Sheaths firm, reddish-brown, distinctly oblique, purplish or reddish below, somewhat flaring upwards; blades lacking.
Spikes solitary, terminal, lanceolate or narrowly egg-shaped, 5-23 mm long, light to dark brown or chestnut, several-flowered.
Basal scales 1 or 2 (3), empty, the lowest ones nearly encircling the top of the stem; fertile scales mostly 2-4.5 mm long, egg-shaped, nearly sharp-pointed or blunt, reddish-brown or purplish-brown or purplish-black with translucent margins and lighter coloured midribs; perianth bristles 4, sometimes 5 or 6, shortly surpassing the achenes, rarely reduced or lacking, with fine barbs directed backwards; stigmas 2; achenes lens-shaped, yellow to medium brown, finely cellular roughened, spongy, minutely wrinkled, 1.5-2.5 mm long including the well-differentiated tubercles, the tubercles separated from the achenes by constrictions, pyramidal, bulbous, longer than broad, 0.4-0.7 mm long.
This is a highly variable polyploid complex which has yet to be studied adequately.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Late Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present from Fall to Summer
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Wet meadows, tidal flats, ditches and shorelines in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; common throughout BC; circumpolar, N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF and S to SC, AL, LA, TX, NM, AZ, CA and MX; Greenland, Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Eleocharis palustris

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 740 1870
Slope Gradient (%) 0 3 70
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
40 113 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 6 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: BG(12), CDF(25), CWH(38), ESSF(20), ICH(11), IDF(80), MH(2), MS(7), PP(9), SBPS(13), SBS(15)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Scirpus palustris L.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References