Eleocharis quinqueflora

Few-flowered Spike-rush

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Eleocharis quinqueflora, Glen Fender Meadows SAC, Blair Atholl, July 2010

a slight and slender plant (more slender than the four larger species except some smaller uniglumis);
+/- tufted (uniglumis is patch-forming)
spikelets small, short, and few-flowered;
lowest glume encloses spikelet (like uniglumis), and often half as long as spikelet (uniglumis shorter, rounder, less elongated);
stigma 3-forked (as in multicaulis and the two smaller species; contrast uniglumis and larger species, 2-forked);
ripe nut has style-base not swollen (rules out all larger species; very distinct from uniglumis);
springs, seepages, with some mineral influence, especially upland (uniglumis sometimes in this habitat); rarely emergent from water: contrast with acicularis (silt/sand in +/- still water, often submerged, mainly lowland) and parvula (very local, estuary mud only).
Growth & size
tightly or loosely tufted;
when newly emerged, inconspicuous: short glaucous stems with dark heads;
can look like Carex dioica, which is however an earlier developer, has leaf-blades, and a longer, paler, spikelet (below).

newly emerged E. quinqueflora stems in flower

(five stems on left) Eleocharis quinqueflora;
(four stems on right) male and female
Carex dioica from the same site, same time

also like stunted forms of deergrasses Trichophorum even very short and weak T. germanicum! note deergrasses have the short leaf-blade on the upper leaf-sheath (below).

Leaf-blade of upper sheath in Trichophorum species

Very stunted Trichophorum germanicum!; note small leaf blades on upper sheaths (compare E. quinqueflora picture below)

up to 20 cm when mature, similar to uniglumis (which has spikelets much longer than basal glume and very different nut/style-base characters).

E. quinqueflora: late-season stems

short, few-flowered; ovoid or rhomboid;
lowest glume about half as long as the spikelet (but variable), and encloses its base.

Some spikelets may have a lowest glume shorter than half spikelet length, and suggest
uniglumis. In immature plants check stigmas (3-forked here; 2-forked in uniglumis), and if mature, check nuts (slender style-base and no 'neck' here; obvious 'neck' below swollen style-base in uniglumis) - see section below. Quinqueflora tufted; uniglumis patch-forming.

spikelets in flower, showing basal glumes close to half length of spikelets

spikelets in fruit

stigma 3-forked
perianth bristles 4-6 (but not significant for identification)

style-base (stylopodium) is not swollen
style-base runs down smoothly into nut, with no constriction (‘neck’)


style-base not enlarged, runs smoothly into nut
(yes – I know the stigma appears 2-forked here: I think two of the threads are confluent)

mires, especially open seepages with at least a modicum of base-enrichment

Glen Fender Meadows SAC, Blair Atholl (Highland): quinqueflora with Saxifraga aizoides, Triglochin palustris,
Eriophorum angustifolium
and E. latifolium, Carex dioica, etc. (July 2010)

Frequency & range
very frequent in more hilly areas of north and west. See distribution map.

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