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

Scirpus microcarpus J. Presl & C. Presl
small-flowered bulrush (panicled bulrush)
Cyperaceae (Sedge family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Bryan Kelly-McArthur  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #70637)

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Distribution of Scirpus microcarpus
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Species Information

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Perennial herb from well-developed, stout, creeping rhizomes; stems arising singly or a few together, obscurely triangular in cross-section, 60-150 cm tall.
Several, both stem and basal; sheaths tinted with reddish-purple or straw-coloured to greenish, cross-wrinkled; blades flat, grass-like, (6) 8-15 (20) mm wide, up to several 10's of cm long.
Spikes numerous, terminal, 4-6 (8) mm long, unstalked in small stalked clusters, in a compound, umbel-like cyme; involucral bracts several, conspicuous, leaflike, unequal, sheathless, the largest rarely less than 10 cm long, sometimes as much as 30 cm long.
Scales numerous, blackish or greenish-black, about 1.5 mm long, largely translucent and cellular-net-veined, smooth, egg-shaped, with greener, often poorly defined midribs that may extend from the tips as minute points; perianth bristles 4 to 6, slender, minutely and finely-barbed backwards nearly to the base, nearly equal to slightly surpassing the achenes, but not exserted beyond the scales; stigmas 2; achenes biconvex, pale, 1-1.2 mm long including the abruptly sharp-pointed tips.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Late Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present over the Summer
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Marshes, swamps and wet meadows in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; common throughout BC except absent in NW BC; amphiberingian, N to AK, E to NF and S to ME, MA, PA, WV, KY, IA, NE, NM, AZ and CA; E Asia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Scirpus microcarpus

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) 0 562 1870
Slope Gradient (%) 0 1 25
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
20 164 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
3 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: BWBS(1), CDF(10), CWH(70), ESSF(7), ICH(72), IDF(11), MS(1), PP(3), SBPS(2), SBS(9)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-intolerant, submontane to subalpine, Asian and Western North American graminoid distributed equally in the Pacific and Cordilleran regions and marginally in the Central region. Occurs in cool temperate and cool mesothermal climates on wet to very wet, nitrogen-rich soils (Moder and Mull humus forms); its occurrence increases with increasing precipitation and decreases with elevation. Common and often dominant in semiĀ­terrestrial, usually early-seral, graminoidĀ­dominated communities and disturbed sites. Often associated with Carex sitchensis, occasionally associated with Lysichitum americanum. A nitrophytic species characteristic of nutrient-rich wetlands.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


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 cool temperate & cool mesothermal.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Scirpus microcarpus var. longispicatus M. Peck
Scirpus microcarpus var. rubrotinctus (Fernald) M.E. Jones
Scirpus rubrotinctus Fernald
Scirpus sylvaticus
Scirpus sylvaticus subsp. digynus

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References