Eleocharis ~ s
eparation of confusion pairs:

palustris versus multicaulis


Multicaulis is a rather squatter, usually obviously tufted, plant (though where abundant, plants can coalesce into patches). Palustris makes patches and often large sheets.

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~ as stated above, multicaulis is tufted; palustris has a strongly creeping rhizome and soon creates large patches

multicaulis - ‘sprawling’ tufted plant in open gravelly runnel

tufted plants of multicaulis in small pool in basin mire

Basal glumes

~ in palustris, the two basal glumes are sterile (so enclose no flowers or fruit), similar in size, short, and typically each encloses just half the spikelet-base with no overlap
~ in multicaulis only the one basal glume is sterile, and this largely encircles the base of the spikelet

multicaulis: +/-encircling basal glume often notched at its rounded apex

Spikelet shape

~ typically,
palustris has symmetrical heads, but of many shapes from cigar-shaped to lanceolate, shorter ovoid or even somewhat conical
~ in multicaulis there is a much more restricted range of shapes, ovoid-ellptic or ovoid-lanceolate
multicaulis is often proliferous - an instant confirmation, since this is the only spike-rush to show this feature

multicaulis: a proliferating flower

Style-base (stylopodium)

~ style-base in palustris is strongly and obviously swollen. (Photo below shows nut with four shorter bristles with the minute rearwards pointing hooks, and three long, broad filaments.)
~ style-base in multicaulis narrows rapidly from a wide base, generally an equilateral triangle in outline. There is a clear constriction at its junction with the nut.


Perianth bristles

~ in palustris there are almost always four bristles, variable in length, but roughly the same length as the nut
~ in multicaulis, there are 4-6 bristles, and these are generally a similar length to palustris (see pictures above)

Basal sheath

~ the sheath-apex in multicaulis is obliquely truncate, hence producing a +/- acute point. In palustris the apex is about transversely truncate

multicaulis: sheath-apex obliquely truncate, making a +/- acute point


~ multicaulis can match palustris at times in stem width, though often rather narrower, but stems are normally shorter

Stem section

~ layers of green tissue are considerably deeper in multicaulis than in palustris and the central hollow correspondingly narrower
~ there are abundant fibre-bundles, more frequent that in

stem sections: palustris (above); multicaulis (below)

Epidermal peel

~ compared with palustris, multicaulis has fibre-bundles more abundant, giving the impression of ‘sheets’; the runs of ‘ordinary’ cells are narrower, the rows carrying stomata in ‘single file’ flanked by single rows of much narrower cells.

epidermal peels: palustris (above); multicaulis (below), same scale

Links to the other Eleocharis spike-rush pages (also accessible from the sidebar)