Plant Name American Bur-Reed
Scientific Name Sparganium Americanum
Family Bur-Reed
Plant Type Perennial
Start of Blooming Season May
End of Blooming Season August
-2- Sample images submitted by MIROFOSS
-0- Sample images submitted by others

Sparganium americanum, also known as American bur-reed, is a perennial plant found throughout Eastern North America. Although when first observed the species looks like a grass, it is a type of bur-reed. American Bur-Reed is important for conservation purposes because the plant has the ability to remove nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from water like many other wetland species. By removing these elements from the water, American bur-reed protects waterways from excess nitrogen which can cause eutrophication. This increased nitrogen is especially a problem during the agricultural growing season when fertilizers are placed on crops. As fertilizer is being spread and adding extra nitrogen the ground water; American bur-reed is growing and taking up nitrogen. The genus name Sparganium is believed to have been derived from the Greek word sparganon, meaning "a band," a reference to the strap-like leaves. American bur-reed received its common name from the appearance of the 'burred' seed pods that are created after flowering.

American Bur-Reed currently does not have any commercial applications. However, in the natural world, the roots American bur-reed plant create stability along the shores of waterways and wetlands, and many types of water fowl feed on the seeds and foliage.

Within the realm of naturopathic medicine and folklore, American bur-reed does not have any known medicinal value.

Please note that MIROFOSS does not suggest in any way that plants should be used in place of proper medical and psychological care. This information is provided here as a reference only.

The roots and stems of American bur-reed are considered to be edible.

Please note that MIROFOSS can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the consumption of plant species which are found in the wild. This information is provided here as a reference only.

American bur-reed can grow in low marsh and shallow water, surviving in water up to 30cm deep. This species helps stabilize muddy areas and shorelines. American bur-reed live in peaty to sandy soils along lakeshores, slow moving streams and as floating vegetation in boggy lakes. The plant can survive in partial or full sun but is not drought tolerant and must stay in wet soil or submerged in water.

Soil Conditions
Soil Moisture

American Bur-Reed is a monocot plant only having one seed leaf. Individual American bur-reeds can grow to be between 30cm to 200cm tall. American bur-reed plants produce white, rounded cluster, flowers during the summer months. The flower pedals could have a dark spot on them which may give the appearance of a darker flower. The flowers of the American bur-reed are monoecious meaning that individual flowers are either male or female and both sexes can be found on the same plant. American bur-reed flowers are pollinated by Wind. The leaves of the American bur-reed are acicular, green, and are triangular in cross section; the leaves of individuals plants living in deeper water can produce floating leaves. American bur-reed spread rapidly through their underground root systems of rhizomes. The fruit found on American bur-reed have a dull surface with beaks that are between 2 and 5 millimeters long. These beaks may be straight, but some of them may be curved. It should be noted that before the flowers or fruits are visible on the American bur-reed, the plant may be misidentified as a grass.

Plant Height 30cm to 200cm
Habitat Shallow water and Muddy Shorelines
Leaves Subulate with a triangular cross section
Leaf Margin Entire (Smooth)
Leaf Venation Parallel
Stems Zigzag stalks
Flowering Season May to August
Flower Type Rounded Clusters of scales
Flower Colour White, sometimes with dark spots
Pollination Wind
Flower Gender Female flowers (one stigma) Male flowers (five stamens)
Fruit Seed-like green bur-like heads
USDA Zone 5A (-26.2°C to -28.8°C) cold weather limit

No known health risks have been associated with American bur-reed. However ingestion of naturally occurring plants without proper identification is not recommended.

-Click here- or on the thumbnail image to see an artist rendering, from The United States Department of Agriculture, of American Bur-Reed. (This image will open in a new browser tab)

-Click here- or on the thumbnail image to see a magnified view, from The United States Department of Agriculture, of the seeds created by the American bur-reed for propagation. (This image will open in a new browser tab)

American bur-reed can be translated into the following select languages:

Arabic الأمريكي بر-القصب Bulgarian American Бур-тръстика Chinese (Sim) 美国车针簧
Croatian Američki Bur-Reed Czech Americký bur-rákos Danish Amerikansk bur-reed
Dutch Amerikaanse bur-riet Esperanto Amerika Bur-reed Estonian American bur-pilliroog
Finnish Amerikkalainen bur-ruoko French Amérique rubanier German Amerikanischen Igelkolben
Greek Αμερικανός τραχεία καλάμι Hebrew אמריקנית ספחת-ריד Hungarian American Bur-nád
Italian Americano bur-canna Japanese アメリカンいが、葦 Korean 미국 버 - 리드
Punjabi   Lithuanian Amerikos BUR-nendrių Norwegian American bur-siv
Persian آمریکا فرز نی Polish Amerykańska bur-trzciny Portuguese Americana bur-reed
Romanian   Russian Американский бор-трость Slovak Americký bur-trstina
Spanish Americana bur-reed Swedish Amerikansk bur-reed Tagalog Amerikano tinik-tambo
Turkish Amerikan bur-kamış Ukrainian Американський бор-тростина Vietnamese Mỹ bur-sậy

The MIROFOSS database offers free printable garden tags for personal and non-profit use. These tags can be used to properly identify plant samples in a garden. Click on the tags shown on the the screen or -click here- to download a full size jpeg image for an American Bur-Reed identification tag; which can be printed on paper or used with a plastic laser printer.

What's this?
This is a QR code (short for Quick Response) which gives fast-track access to MIROFOSS articles. QR Codes are barcodes that can be read by smart phone cameras. This QR Code is unique to this MIROFOSS article.

What can I do with it?
You can copy and print the QR code to a plant label, poster, book, web site, magazines, or newspaper so smart phone users can scan the QR Code which automatically takes them to this specific article.

Description / Application USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 1: 70.
Description Sulman, Josh. 2013. Sparganium identification key and species descriptions. University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Botany.
Biology Kao, Jenny T., John E. Titus, and Wei-Xing Zhu. 2003. Differential Nitrogen and Phosphorus Retention by Five Wetland Plant Species. Wetlands Vol. 23, No. 4: 979-987.
Biology Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Biology Dickinson, T.; Metsger, D.; Bull, J.; & Dickinson, R. (2004) ROM Field Guide to Wildflowers of Ontario. Toronto:Royal Ontario Museum,
Image Rendering USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. Wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Environment National Audubon Society. Field Guide To Wildflowers (Eastern Region): Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40232-2
Physical Identification National Audubon Society. Field Guide To Wildflowers (Eastern Region): Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40232-2
January 31, 2015 The last time this page was updated
©2021 MIROFOSS™ Foundation