Species Factsheets

Schoenoplectus smithii

Smith's Bulrush

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State Status: Pennsylvania Endangered (PE)
PBS Status: Pennsylvania Endangered (PE)
Federal Status:

Global Rank: G5? rank interpretation
State Rank: S1

Did You Know?

Smith, in the common name of this species, comes from its discoverer, Charles Eastwick Smith, who was a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

Schoenoplectus smithii


Smith's bulrush (Schoenoplectus smithii) is an annual herb with a soft, three-sided stem that may grow to half a meter in height, but is usually much smaller. The leaves, which may be absent, are mostly clustered at the base of the stem, linear in shape, entire on the margin, and variable in length. The flowers, appearing from July to September, are individually only 1-2mm in length, being aggregated in stalkless clusters that are attached at a single point on the middle to upper portion of the stem, and are overtopped by a slender leaf-like bract. The individual fruits are black at maturity, about 2mm in length, and lack the subtending bristles found in Schoenoplectus purshianus, which is a more common, similar-looking species.

Rank Justification

Critically imperiled in the nation or state because of extreme rarity (often 5 or fewer occurrences) or because of some factor(s) such as very steep declines making it especially vulnerable to extirpation from the state.


The PA Biological Survey (PABS) has assigned Smith's bulrush a rarity status of Endangered, based on the relatively few populations that have been confirmed, the usually small population sizes, the limited state range, and the specialized habitat.


Smith's bulrush grows in intertidal marshes, mudflats, and on shorelines. The populations in intertidal marshes are subjected to daily cycles of exposure and inundation.

Survey Dates

Fruits July - September


In Pennsylvania, it has been documented historically in scattered locations, particularly in the southeastern counties along the Delaware River and in the northwestern counties.



The known populations have threats from exotic species, dredging and filling, and water pollution.

Conservation Status Map


Map Legend

NatureServe. 2017. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available https://explorer.natureserve.org.


  • NatureServe. 2018. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available at https://www.natureserve.org/explorer
  • Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program. 2018.
  • Rhoads, A.F. and W.M. Klein, Jr. 1993. The Vascular Flora of Pennsylvania. American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Rhoads, A.F. and T.A. Block.
  • 2007. The Plants of Pennsylvania: An Illustrated Manual. 2nd edition. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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