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Fact Sheet No. 248, UMaine Extension No. 2201

Prepared by David E. Yarborough, The University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469.  Replaces March 1989 by Tom DeGomez, David Yarborough and Christopher Campbell. Revised June 2002.

Grasses, Sedges and Rushes

Grasses, sedges and rushes look very similar at first glance and can be difficult to identify correctly. The very best method of telling them apart are with flower characteristics. However, these parts are often very small and can be difficult to distinguish in the field. There are some vegetative features that can help distinguish one from another. The structure of the stems and leaves can give some clues to telling them apart. The important parts of the stem used for identification are the joints, internodes, and the cross section of the stem. The important characteristics of the leaves are the ligules and the sheath orientation.

This diagram illustrates some of parts that most grasses, sedges and rushes have. Use it to determine if the weed you are trying to identify is a grass, sedge or rush.  Then proceed to the descriptions of the individual weeds in this fact sheet and in Weeds 9 to determine the name of the weed. (See figure 1)

Common Rush, Juncus effusus
Life cycle -
Perennial rush. Reproduces by seed. Flowers July to September. Description – Stands l’ to 2 1/2′ high, dense tufts of leaves at base.  Stems are soft. Flower head has many flowers, 1″ to 4″ high. Rootstock is stout, branching and proliferous.

Wire-grass, Slender rush, Juncus tenuis
Life cycle
– Perennial rush. Reproduces by seed. Flowers June to September. Description – Tufted, 2″ to 30″ high. Leaves at the base are very narrow and about half the height of the stem. Flowers are less than 4″ high.

Grasses, Sedges and Rushes
Figure 1: Grasses, Sedges and Rushes

Common RushFigure 2: Common Rush 

Common RushFigure 3: Common Rush

Wire-grass, Slender rushFigure 4: Wire-grass, Slender rush Wire-grass, Slender rushFigure 5: Wire-grass, Slender rush

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 1987, 2002

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