Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Plant ID: rushes

We have a rather unusual plant (looks like bamboo?) that has grown rapidly this year. Attached is a photo. Could you please tells us if it is bamboo and should we keep it or get rid of them. I was told that they could cause many problems in an urban environment due to their very invasive root system.

The plant you are trying to identify is a type of rush. There are many different genus out there, most of which belong to different plant families, but the cylindrical habit of the plant with those colorful bands are quite distinguishable. There is Equisetum, which is called scouring-rush, a member of the family Equisetaceae. It got its name because early American pioneers used to gather and tie them together in order to use them as scrub brushes to clean their pots and pans. Juncus is another genus, I believe a member of the Juncaceae family, and the well known variety of that genus has more of a corkscrew appearance. If I were to guess what you have in your yard I might guess it to be a striped club rush, botanically known as Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani 'Zebrinus'. However, I must admit I am not 100% certain having only seen only one image of the plant.

Either way the cultural habit of rushes is pretty much the same across the boards. They are clump forming perennials that spread predominantly by underground rhizome. They do best in full sun in a wet environment, and yes, they can spread quite rapidly once established in the landscape. Honestly, whether to keep it or to try and pull it and remove it from your garden is totally up to you. In my backyard they are welcome as a filler in some wet areas; for a client in Brooklyn I pull them every time I visit because they drive her crazy. Because it is such an aggressive grower it can become a weed, defined simply as a plant in the wrong place, even though some species are actually native to North America. If you are worried about other plants being choked out then yes, I would try and pull it and remember to remove as many of the underground stems as possible.

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