Eleocharis multicaulis

Many-stalked Spike-rush

Eleocharis multicaulis, Greendale, Wasdale (Cumberland), August 2011

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strongly tufted (unlike the other larger species), but can develop extensive patches through coalescing of individuals (as above)
sheath apex obliquely truncate, so with a +/- acute point (unique in the larger species)
spikelet narrow-ovoid; sometimes proliferous (unique in UK spike-rushes)
lowest glume +/- encloses base of spikelet (approaches uniglumis and quinqueflora; unlike austriaca and palustris)
ripe nut is distinctly 3-sided in section; style-base broad, with constriction, but not swollen, triangular in outline
mires of various types, with some mineral influence; damp hollows on sandy heaths, etc.

~ strongly tufted (although plants can readily coalesce, so making ‘patches’)

multicaulis - ‘sprawling’ plant in open gravelly runnel

multicaulis - more upright plants in peaty mire

~ stems generally fairly short – 15-30 cm, often flexuous; mid-green and shiny; red/purple-based or not

typical red-based stems (scale is 5 cm)

Sheath apex
~ sheath apex obliquely truncate, hence producing a +/- acute point:

sheath-apex obliquely truncate...

...making a +/- acute point (not always as pronounced as this)

Stem section
~ stems typically narrower than the ‘big two’ species (i.e.
austriaca and palustris): 1.0-1.5 mm across, circular or somewhat flattened in section.
~ layers of green tissue are considerably deeper than in e.g.
palustris and the central hollow correspondingly narrower.
~ abundant fibre-bundles, more frequent that in

stem section

~ very distinctive: compared with
palustris, fibre-bundles are more abundant, giving the impression of ‘sheets’; ranks of ‘ordinary’ cells are narrower, the rows carrying stomata in ‘single file’ flanked by single rows of much narrower cells. (Go to page ID:palustris/austriaca for wider discussion of epidermal peels. Describes technique to obtain peels.)

epidermal peel

~ note convex ends to stomata, unlike palustris.

file of stomata with very narrow flanking cells, bounded by bundles of fibre-cells

~ oval-lanceolate or elliptical-ovoid; about 10-30 flowers; can be partly proliferous (unique in UK spike-rushes).


...in which some flowers may proliferate

~ lowest glume +/- encloses base of spikelet (more than half), and is about a quarter the length of the spikelet.
Can often be notched at its rounded apex.


basal glume often notched at its rounded apex

~ stigma 3-forked (as in the smaller species; contrast
austriaca, palustris and uniglumis)
~ perianth bristles 4-6, usually longer than nut

~ slightly narrower than the other larger species, the outline of the style-base accentuating the impression of narrowness
~ style-base (stylopodium) broad at the base, with a clear constriction at its junction with the nut, but not swollen, being low and rapidly narrowing above

ripe nuts from the same spikelet

nuts from the same spikelet

~ mires with some mineral input; typical of runnels and small pools within basin mires; gravelly seepages on valley-sides; seasonally wet hollows in sandy heaths, etc.

Greendale, Wasdale (Cumbria): multicaulis in small mire pools and drains (August 2011)

Frequency & range
~ widespread and frequent in damper areas, so especially in the west and north; scattered in the east.
See distribution map.

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