American Bur-reed, Sparganium americanum, is an aquatic, perennial plant that grows two to four feet high and looks a lot like a grass due to its narrow leaves (but isn’t). This member of the Cattail family grows in shallow water (up to a foot deep) in marshes and along muddy shorelines. The flower stem forms a zig-zag pattern with flower clusters at each stem juncture. The large, spherical female flowers are located on the lower part of the stem, with the smaller male flowers at the top.
Considered an important plant for conservation purposes, American Bur-reed has the ability to remove nitrogen and phosphorus from wetlands. It can help prevent eutrophication by lessening the buildup of nitrogen (often from agricultural land) and phosphorus (households, industry) from runoff.
American Bur-reed spreads rapidly through its underground root systems of rhizomes, and is relied upon by many birds as an important source of food. Waterfowl, including Mallards, Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks, Greater Scaup, Buffleheads, Canvasbacks, American Wigeons and Blue-winged Teal, consume the seeds, as do Soras, Virginia Rails and Wilson’s Snipe. Muskrats eat the entire plant. (Thanks to Kay Shumway for photo op.)
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