Separation of confusion pairs: Eleocharis …

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 palustris

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)