Scirpus ancistrochaetus

Barbed Bristle Bulrush

FWS Focus



The northeastern bulrush is a member of the sedge family (Cyperaceae) native to the northeastern United States. It is a wetland obligate occurring in ephemeral wetlands and beaver-influenced wetlands in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. It was first described as a new species by A.E. Schuyler in 1962 (Schuyler 1962, entire) and is one of 18 species in North America of a natural group of leafy bulrushes within the genus Scirpus. The species’ optimal habitat includes fluctuating water levels, little canopy cover, and acidic to circumneutral soils with high organic matter.

The Service listed the species as endangered in 1991.  At that time, there were 13 known extant occurrences in seven states. As of 2018, the northeastern bulrush is known to occur in eight states, with at least 148 extant populations. The populations can be loosely organized into northern and southern “regions” with a large gap in the distribution in southeastern New York. The species is listed as endangered in all states in which it occurs except West Virginia, which does not have endangered species legislation.

Our knowledge of the species’ genetic makeup is based on a limited sample of genetic markers. Rangewide, the northeastern bulrush exhibits low genetic diversity but diversity varies geographically.  The New England region shows very little diversity, while the southern states exhibit higher diversity along with some genetically unique populations. The species can reproduce sexually and clonally, but successful sexual reproduction and dispersal appears rare, resulting in clonal populations with clumped distributions and almost no genetic diversity.  Additional genetic diversity may be present in undescribed markers. 

Scientific Name

Scirpus ancistrochaetus
Common Name
barbed bristle bulrush
northeastern bulrush
barbedbristle bulrush
FWS Category
Flowering Plants

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers



Characteristic category



Areas such as marshes or swamps that are covered often intermittently with shallow water or have soil saturated with moisture.


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