Erect Bur Reed (Sparganium americanum)

Bur Reed New Growth 

The Erect Bur Reed (Sparganium americanum), also known as the American Bur-reed and Lesser Bur-reed, is an important emergent plant found on or near the shore of French Hill Pond. It belongs to the Bur Reed Family (Sparganiaceae). There is only one genus in this family, Sparganium, and over a dozen species. The order to which this plant belongs is Typhales. The leaves of this plant are spear-like, up to three feet (0.9 meters) long and from two inches (5 centimeters) to 4½ inches (12 centimeters) wide. These plants grow in shallow water or in mud. The green flowers are born on zigzag stems. The photograph above shows Bur Reed flowers and leaves. The next photograph is a wider view of bur reed plants in French Hill Pond. The leaves resemble cattail leaves and bur reeds and cattails frequently coexist making the differentiation of the plants difficult.

There are male and female flowers on each zigzag stem. The five to nine small male flower balls are at the top of the stem. The larger female flower balls are lower on the stem. The male flowers have five stamens and the female flowers have one stigma. The male flower balls wither when their pollen is released. The female flower balls develop into the fruit container.

Bur Reed Group

The following photograph is a close up of the fruit container, a bur covered ball about ¾ inch (2 centimeters) in diameter. Each container holds many seed-like fruits called achene (small, dry, single, encapsulated seeds that do not open before germination).

Bur Reed Fruit Capsule

The achene are imbedded in a fleshy mass to form the fruit ball as seen in the following photograph of an individual ball.

Bur-reed Achene Ball

The following microphotograph at 20X magnification shows an individual achene. Each achene is about ¼ inch (6.5 millimeters) long. The burs are the achene imbedded in a fleshy mass to form a ball.

Bur Reed Achene

This plant flowers from May through August.

The root system is rootstock.

Erect Bur Reeds serve as food for wildlife, help stabilize the shoreline and help filter water runoff as it enters the pond.


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