Friday, 6 October 2017

Common Bog-rush

You say tomayto, I say tomahto...

There's a little plant called Schoenus apogon. (At the moment that is. It's had other botanical names since it was first described in the early 1800s.) Schoenus comes from the Greek word for reed or rush and apogon means 'without a beard'. (I still don't know where the beard would be if it had one.)

A search of various pronunciation sites on the web revealed that Schoenus is pronounced 'shernus' or 'skinus' or 'shonus'. So I'm going to keep calling it shonus unless Neville Walsh* tells me his version.

And the common names are confusing as well. It's called Common Bog-rush here in Victoria, but also Common Bog Rush, Fluke Bog-rush, Bog Club-rush and, because it also grows in New Zealand and Japan, who knows what else. That's why we use the scientific name. It's standard across the world. (Did you see how I used the word 'we' there? I'm a citizen scientist.)

Schoenus apogon flower
Schoenus apogon, habit
If you want to see the Common Bog-rush flowering you need to get out there now (spring and summer) and look for a very small rush growing in a seasonally damp area. It's common so you have a good chance of finding some but they're easily overlooked and you've probably walked on one heaps of times because it looks like grass. Compare the size of the gum leaves in the photo above. It's an annual so that means it grows from seed each year.

The culms are terete and striated. To you and me that means the stems or stalks are circular (in cross-section) and striped or streaked. The sheaths around the flowering spikelets are dark red-brown and quite attractive really when you get down low to have a good look. The sheaths are shiny with glabrous margins. (That means they're smooth and free from hair so maybe that's the 'apogon' cleanshaven aspect.)

These plants were growing near Heywood in Western Victoria. I've identified them as Schoenus apogon but there are 19 other Schoenus species in Victoria so it's possible I'm wrong. I'm happy to be corrected.

* Click on photos to view large
** Neville Walsh is Senior Conservation Botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.
*** Schoenus plants are in the Cyperaceae Family

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