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Common Name: Hard Stem Bulrush
Scirpus acutus is a perennial plant that can grow up to 2.00 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
N. America - Canada and southwards.
Fresh, calcareous to brackish marshes, shores and pond margins in water up to 1 metre deep[
]. Plants form extensive clumps in the wild[
We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain, though judging by its native range it should succeed outdoors in most parts of this country. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus.
Succeeds in any wet to moisture retentive ground, pond margins and shallow water in full sun or shade[
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[
]. Rich in protein, it can be added to flour when making bread, cakes etc.
]. 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[
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[
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 1½ 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[
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.