Herb: Hard Stem Bulrush

Latin name: Scirpus acutus

Synonyms: Schoenoplectus acutus, Scirpus occidentalis

Family: Cyperaceae (Sedge Family)

Medicinal use of Hard Stem Bulrush:

The stem pith is haemostatic. A poultice of the pith is placed under a dressing in order to stop the wound bleeding. The roots have been chewed as a preventative to thirst.

Description of the plant:


2 m
(6 1/2 foot)

Habitat of the herb:

Marshes, shores and pond margins in water up to 1 metre deep. Plants form extensive clumps in the wild.

Edible parts of Hard Stem Bulrush:

Root - raw or cooked. Rich in starch, it has been ground into a powder and used with cereal flours in making bread. The roots can be boiled with water and made into a syrup. The roots are usually peeled before being eaten. Pollen. Rich in protein, it can be added to flour when making bread, cakes etc. Seed. Small and fiddly to utilize. White stem bases and tender young shoots - raw or cooked. Harvested in the spring, they are crisp and sweet. New shoots form in the autumn and make a welcome snack. The inner portions of the stems can be eaten raw.

Other uses of the herb:

A fibre obtained from the stems is used for making paper. The fresh stems can be harvested in summer, or dried stems can be used at any time of the year. The stems are split and cut into usable pieces, soaked for 24 hours in clear water and then cooked for 1? hours with lye. The fibres are then beaten in a blender and can be used to make a beige/brown paper. The stems and leaves are used for weaving or sewing together into hats, mats, mattresses etc. The stems are very durable and take a year or more to decay in the wild. The stems have been used in basket making. The outer surface of the stems has been split and twisted into weft cords and warp.

Propagation of Hard Stem Bulrush:

Seed - sow in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in a pot standing in 3cm of water. Only just cover the seed with soil. The seed usually germinates fairly quickly. Prick out the plants when large enough to handle and plant out in their permanent positions in early summer. Division in spring. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Marshes, shores and pond margins in water up to 1 metre deep. Plants form extensive clumps in the wild.

Known hazards of Scirpus acutus:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.