Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Juncus ensifolius
(swordleaf rush)



Juncus ensifolius (swordleaf rush)


  • Last modified
  • 15 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Juncus ensifolius
  • Preferred Common Name
  • swordleaf rush
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Juncus ensifolius is a mostly pioneering or ruderal species of rush that readily establishes in disturbed wet soils, often from buried seeds.  Within its native range in western North America it is widespread a...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Juncus ensifolius Wikstrom

Preferred Common Name

  • swordleaf rush

Other Scientific Names

  • Juncus brunnescens Rydberg
  • Juncus saximontanus A. Nelson
  • Juncus xiphioides var. montanus Engelm.
  • Juncus xiphioides var. triandrus Engelm.

International Common Names

  • English: dwarf rush; equitant-leaved rush; iris-leaved rush; Sword-leaved rush

Local Common Names

  • Australia: three-stamened rush
  • Austria: Schwertblatt-Simse
  • Belgium: Zwaardrus
  • Canada: daggerleaf rush; dagger-leaved rush
  • Canada/Quebec: jonc à épées
  • Denmark: Sværd-siv
  • Finland: miekkavihvilä
  • France: jonc nain
  • Germany: Schwertblättrige Binse; Swertbinse; Zwergbinse
  • Netherlands: Dwergbies; Swurdblêdrusk; Zwaardrus
  • New Zealand: three-stamened rush
  • Norway: Sverdsiv
  • Sweden: Svärdtåg
  • UK: three-stamened rush

Summary of Invasiveness

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Juncus ensifolius is a mostly pioneering or ruderal species of rush that readily establishes in disturbed wet soils, often from buried seeds.  Within its native range in western North America it is widespread and infrequent to common, typically a minor, secondary or at most co-dominant species in natural wetlands. Limited reports suggest that it behaves similarly in east Asia (Tachibana et al., 2001), where it is also native. Although it is recognized as having “potential for weediness” (Marr and Trull, 2002), it is not generally viewed as an aggressive invader within its native range and is widely used in wetland restoration and as a landscape plant. There are no published studies documenting its rate of growth, spread or dispersal.

Scattered occurrences in eastern North America are considered by some to be disjunct, rare, native populations worthy of tracking or protection, and by others to be introduced. It appears most likely that these populations result from combinations of accidental and deliberate human introductions and dispersal by animals (e.g. by migrating waterfowl).

In Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii, J. ensifolius has apparently become naturalized in the 20th Century following deliberate (gardening) and accidental (as a contaminant in seed mixes and peat) introductions.  There appear to be no reports of it spreading outside its native range in Asia, but it has been introduced in constructed experimental wetlands in Israel. Occurrences in the introduced range are being monitored (both formally by government agencies, and informally by interested botanists), but there are no records of targeted control action. There is no evidence that J. ensifolius causes harm to human health, but there is some ambiguity as to whether it causes, or has the potential to cause, economic or environmental harm. It is recorded as a threat to several endangered plant species in Hawaii, but even in that case the situation is not entirely clear.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Cyperales
  •                         Family: Juncaceae
  •                             Genus: Juncus
  •                                 Species: Juncus ensifolius

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Two varieties are recognized in the Flora of North America (Brooks and Clemants, 2000): (1) Juncus ensifolius var. ensifolius, which has 3 stamens and purple brown flowerheads, and (2) Juncus ensifolius var. montanus (Engelmann) C. L. Hitchcock, which has 6 stamens and paler brown flowerheads.  The ranges of the two varieties overlap, but var. montanus appears to be restricted to a somewhat smaller range centred on the Rocky Mountain region of western North America, whereas var. ensifolius extends along the Pacific Rim coastline.  Invasive populations found outside the native range appear to be mostly var. ensifolius, as suggested by the common name in the UK, New Zealand and Australia. This variety has the darker, more attractive flowerheads preferred for ornamental use.

Many synonyms can be found in older taxonomies and herbarium specimens. Both subtaxa were considered as varieties of J.xiphioides E. Meyer:  (J. xiphiodes var. triandrus Engelm. for the 3-stamened variety; J. xiphiodes var. montanus Engelm. for the six-stamened montane variety).  The montane variety has also been treated as a separate species (J. saximontanus A. Nelson; J. brunnescens Rydberg), or alternatively as J. ensifolius var. brunnescens (Rydberg) Cronquist.

In international botanical circles, the common name for J. ensifolius most often refers to its sword- or dagger-shaped leaves.  In horticultural circles (i.e. online nurseries) J. ensifolius is commonly sold as “dwarf rush” (or translations thereof) due to its low stature compared to other cultivated rushes. A cultivar named “Flying Hedgehogs”, notable for its “cute” spiny flowerheads, is marketed online (e.g. Dave’s Garden, 2015; Mr. Fothergill's, 2015).


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The following description is from Brooks and Clemants (2000): A rhizomatous, perennial herb (graminoid), typically growing in dense clumps 20 – 60 cm tall. Rhizomes 2--3 mm diam. Culms erect, 2--6 mm diam. Cataphylls 0 or 1--2, straw-colored, apex narrowly acute. Leaves: basal 1--3, cauline 2--6, straw-colored; auricles absent; blade 2--25 cm x 1.5--6 mm. Inflorescences panicles or racemes of 2--50 heads or heads solitary, 2--14 cm, erect or ascending branches; primary bract erect; heads 3--70-flowered, obovoid to globose, 7--11 mm diam. Flowers: tepals green to brown or reddish brown, lanceolate; outer tepals 2.7--3.6(--4) mm, apex acuminate; inner tepals 2.2--3(--3.5) mm, nearly equal, apex acuminate; stamens 3 or 6; anthers ½ to equal filament length. Capsules included to slightly exserted, chestnut to dark brown, 1-locular, oblong, 2.4--4.3 mm, apex obtuse proximal to beak. Seeds elliptic to obovate, 0.4--1 mm, occasionally tailed.

Plant Type

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Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated


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Juncus ensifolius occurs as a widespread, frequent to common native wetland plant from near sea level to subalpine elevations throughout western North America and along the Pacific Rim from California to Alaska, extending through the Aleutian Islands and the Kurile Islands of the Russian Far east to Hokkaido Island, Japan.  In western North America it can be found on both sides of the Rocky Mountains, extending eastward to the western edge of the Great Plains in Saskatchewan (where it is considered rare), South Dakota to eastern Colorado, and central Mexico.

There are disjunct locations along the remote shoreline of Hudson Bay in far northeastern Ontario and northwest Quebec, and also along the Delaware River in New York.  These occurrences were for many years considered native, and are still considered by some to be worth tracking or protecting (Oldham, 1999; Bouchard et al., 1983; New York Natural Heritage Program, 2015); the species is listed as endangered in New York (New York Natural Heritage Program, 2015). However, although human introduction to remote areas of Ontario and Quebec seems unlikely, most sources now consider the U.S. occurrences east of the Great Plains to be introduced (Brooks and Clemants, 2000; Weldy et al., 2015). It appears most likely that these populations result from combinations of accidental and deliberate human introductions and dispersal by animals (e.g. by migrating waterfowl). Other long-disjunct specimens have more recently been reported in Rhode Island and Vermont (BONAP, 2015; latter not verified with a herbarium specimen). J. ensifolius is widespread along disturbed roadsides and waterways in Wisconsin and has also been found at several locations in Michigan (Marr and Trull, 2002). In the Great Lakes region of the USA, the species has been described as “spreading but tough to eradicate” and ranked as “medium priority”, but did not require “early detection and rapid control” in Northern Wisconsin (NCWMA, 2014) and although it was tracked, it was not considered a “priority invasive” by the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (Falck et al., 2006), listed as a regulated or restricted species in Wisconsin (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 2015), or prohibited or restricted in other Great Lakes states.

In Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii the species has apparently become naturalized in the 20th Century following deliberate (gardening) and accidental (as a contaminant in seed mixes and peat) introductions. In Hawaii, Daehler (2005) did not rank it as a “disruptive invader” in upper montane environments, but it was later listed in a final rule under the Federal Endangered Species Act as posing a threat to several endangered plant species on Hawaii Island (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013). In Austria a 2002 government publication ranked its status as “impermanent” (non-invasive) and “so far without effects” (Essl and Rabitsch, 2002).

There appear to be no reports of spread outside the native range in Asia, but the species has been introduced in constructed experimental wetlands in Israel (Iasur-Kruh et al., 2010).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


IsraelPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced2006Iasur-Kruh et al., 2010Constructed wetland at Tel-Aviv wastewater treatment plant
JapanPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-HokkaidoPresentNativeTachibana et al., 2001Associated with disturbed mire sites

North America

CanadaPresentBrooks and Clemants, 2000
-AlbertaLocalisedNative Not invasive Moss and Packer, 1982; NatureServe, 2016Vulnerable. Found only in the south and west (Rocky Mountains). Both varieties.
-British ColumbiaWidespreadNative Not invasive Klinkenberg, 2016; NatureServe, 2016Apparently absent from northeastern BC. Both varieties.
-OntarioPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive Riley, 2003Disjunct, lower Harricana River at James Bay. Possibly extirpated
-QuebecPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive Bouchard et al., 1983; Riley, 2003Disjunct, James Bay region. Ranked as critically imperiled.
-SaskatchewanLocalisedNative Not invasive Breitung, 1957; Harms, 2006Southern and central Saskatchewan (Cypress Hills, Duck Lake). Both varieties present but rare. Var. ensifolius is considered Threatened and var. montanus Endangered
MexicoLocalisedNativeBrooks and Clemants, 2000; Consortium of Midwest Herbaria, 2015South as far as Veracruz, Puebla, and Guerrero; range includes Baja California, Chihuahua and Durango
USAPresentBrooks and Clemants, 2000
-AlaskaWidespreadNative Not invasive Hultén, 1968Coastal areas only, including Aleutian Islands. North as far as Anchorage
-ArizonaLocalisedNative Not invasive Rocky Mountain Herbarium, 2015
-CaliforniaWidespreadNative Not invasive Consortium of California Herbaria, 2015Both varieties
-ColoradoPresentNative Not invasive NatureServe, 2015; Rocky Mountain Herbarium, 2015Reported both as widespread and as imperiled
-HawaiiLocalisedIntroduced1911 Invasive Wester, 1992; Wagner et al., 1999; Daehler, 2005Upper elevations on Islands of Hawai’i and Maui
-IdahoWidespreadNative Not invasive Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria, 2015
-MichiganPresent, few occurrencesIntroducedMarr and Trull, 20022 sites in Ottawa National Forest; 1 in Big Island Lake wilderness
-MontanaWidespreadNativeConsortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria, 2015East to Powder River County; northeast to Box Elder
-NevadaWidespreadNative Not invasive Consortium of Intermountain Herbaria, 2015
-New MexicoLocalisedNative Not invasive Rocky Mountain Herbarium, 2015Grant, Santa Fe, Taos, Colfax and McKinley Counties
-New YorkPresent, few occurrencesNew York Natural Heritage Program, 2015; Weldy et al., 2015Delaware River bank; roadside ditch in Sullivan County. Designated as endangered in the state. Uncertain whether native or introduced
-North DakotaAbsent, unreliable recordBONAP, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015No verified herbarium records
-OregonWidespreadNative Not invasive Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria, 2015Both varieties
-PennsylvaniaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedCaribbean Garden, 2015Live plants shipped worldwide from Pottstown, PA
-Rhode IslandPresent, few occurrencesIntroducedEastern Illinois University, 2015Mitigation wetland, West Greenwich, Kent County
-South DakotaLocalisedNative Not invasive Rocky Mountain Herbarium, 2015Black Hills
-TexasAbsent, unreliable recordUSDA-ARS, 2015No verified records
-UtahWidespreadNative Not invasive Goodrich, 1986Both varieties
-VermontAbsent, unreliable recordIntroducedBONAP, 2015; New England Wild Flower Society, 2015Washington County
-WashingtonWidespreadNative Not invasive Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria, 2015
-WisconsinWidespreadIntroduced1971 Invasive Judziewicz and Nekola, 1997Reported as common in roadside ditches in 1986
-WyomingPresentNative Not invasive NatureServe, 2015; Rocky Mountain Herbarium, 2015Reported both as widespread and as vulnerable


AustriaPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced1989 Not invasive Wittmann and Pilsl, 1997; Essl and Rabitsch, 2002
BelgiumPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced2006 Invasive Verloove, 2015Near Jabbeke, Hergenrath, & Wingene
FinlandPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced1971Pohjakallio and Hämet-Ahti, 1974; Piirainen, 2004Mainly in the south west, but also in Uusimaa. Has disappeared at 2 locales
GermanyLocalisedIntroduced1970Runge, 1972; Koch, 1991In various parts of Germany
LuxembourgLocalisedIntroduced1987Foyer, 1987
NetherlandsPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced1974Adema and Mennema, 1976; Meijden and Holverda, 1987; Stolwijk and Zijlstra, 1995; Werkgroep Florakartering Drenthe, 2016In Drenthe, Twente and Utrecht. Occurrence expanded considerably between 1974 and 1986.
NorwayPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced2000Grøstad, 2003; Piirainen, 2004In Larvik, SE Norway, and Snåsa, Nord-Trondelag
Russian FederationPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Russian Far EastLocalisedNativeProbatova et al., 2004South Kurile Islands
SwedenPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced1982Christofferson, 1984; Danielsson and Nilsson, 1988In Harjedalen, Smaland and more recently Norrbotten
UKPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced1956Kent, 1958; Clement and Foster, 1994; Poland, 2005


AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-VictoriaLocalisedIntroduced2000 Invasive Atlas of Living Australia, 2015In the Australian Alps
New ZealandLocalisedIntroduced1940 Invasive NZPCN, New Zealand Plant Conservation NetworkBay of Plenty, Westland, Canterbury

History of Introduction and Spread

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J. ensifolius has apparently been introduced to eastern North America and (during the 20th century) western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii, both deliberately and accidentally; see the Distribution table for the years in which it was first reported and the sources of this information. It is an attractive and easily cultivated ornamental that is used horticulturally in artificial bog, wetland and pond gardens and can be purchased from commercial growers in North America (e.g. Caribbean Garden, 2015) and Europe (e.g. Le Jardin du Pic Vert, 2015). It is also believed to have arrived in Europe accidentally as a contaminant in commercial grass seed, hay or other animal feeds, and as dormant, viable seed in peat and commercial soil mixtures containing peat (Piirainen, 2004). Within North America, its recent use as botanical material in wetland restoration projects (Woosaree, 2000; Adamus and Holzhauser, 2006) has probably contributed to spread within and beyond its native range. Machine disturbances such road construction, ditching and diking that create puddles or areas of wet, compacted soil have also enhanced the opportunities for J. ensifolius to become more abundant, or to spread into habitats where it was formerly absent. 

At many of the locations where it has been observed outside of its natural range, J. ensifolius has naturalized and spread relatively quickly, for example along roadside ditches or the margins of ponds. This spread creates opportunities for further dispersal of both seeds and rhizome fragments by wildlife, livestock, pets, vehicles, machinery and foot traffic (e.g., Dörr 1995). Because the seeds can remain viable for decades in a soil or peat seedbank, opportunities for additional spread are considerable.

In Eastern North America, the status of J. ensifolius as a rare native plant or as an invasive alien is ambiguous.  In northern Quebec and Ontario it appears to have established at a remote, undeveloped location (near the shoreline of James Bay -- Riley, 2003) where opportunities for deliberate or accidental human introduction are low.  These disjunct populations are treated as native, and it seems likely that the species was dispersed by waterfowl, as James Bay is a major staging area for migrating geese and other birds (e.g. Jeffries et al., 2003). In New York State, J. ensifolius is considered by some as a rare native plant, while others believe that these eastern U.S. populations were introduced by humans (Weldy et al., 2015).  By contrast, in Wisconsin and Michigan, it is widely recognized by public agencies an invasive alien whose populations are increasing, although not yet requiring active control (Marr and Trull, 2002; Judziewicz and Nekola, 1997).  It has been collected in Rhode Island (Eastern Illinois University, 2015) and there are unsubstantiated reports that it has been observed in Vermont (BONAP, 2015).  

There appear to be no reports of the species spreading outside its native range in Asia, but it has been introduced in constructed experimental wetlands in Israel (Iasur-Kruh et al., 2010).

Occurrences in Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii and the mid-western to eastern USA (i.e. throughout the non-native range) are being monitored (both formally by government agencies, and informally by interested botanists), but there are no records of targeted control action. In Austria, for example, a 2002 government publication ranked its status as “impermanent” (non-invasive) and “so far without effects” (Essl and Rabitsch, 2002). European records range from just one or a few plants discovered at a new locality to active spreading over many square meters of disturbed ground.  The cumulative evidence (see citations in Distribution table) indicates that the plant is becoming more widespread, frequent and abundant.

Risk of Introduction

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Risks of further introduction are high because the species is sold worldwide via the internet as an ornamental plant (e.g. Caribbean Garden, 2015; Le Jardin du Pic Vert, 2015) and because many founder populations are located in high traffic areas along roadways and trails.  Growing worldwide interest in wetland restoration and mitigation creates more opportunities for international introductions (e.g. Iasur-Kruh et al., 2010).


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J. ensifolius is a facultative wetland species (Washington Native Plant Society, 2015) that also occurs on seasonally wet disturbed soils in upland sites.  Climatically, it is a cool temperate species that occurs marginally in boreal forests (i.e. in the southern boreal and along coastlines) and at high elevations in warmer climates (e.g. montane wetlands in Hawaii; alpine resorts in Australia).  In humid, coastal environments and cooler climates it has a broad ecological niche that encompasses estuaries, rainforest edges, roadsides and subalpine meadows, whereas in hotter, desert environments it is more narrowly restricted to riparian, wetland and sheltered habitats (e.g. adjacent to a waterfall). A characteristic feature of almost all habitats is that the soils are seasonally, but not continuously, inundated. Over most of its range, J. ensifolius is associated with disturbed soils, often proliferating in wet ditches, roadsides, and reservoir draw-down zones, or following events such as volcanic mudslides, flooding or forest fires. Although it does not tolerate shade, J. ensifolius is not strictly an early seral species, and appears to be sensitive to grazing. In riparian meadows of the US Rocky Mountains, for example, it is regarded as an indicator species of later successional stages with high stability, biotic integrity and minimal grazing disturbance (Winward, 2000; Jones, 2005).

Habitat List

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Inland saline areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Estuaries Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Lagoons Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production) Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Disturbed areas Principal habitat Natural
Disturbed areas Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Rail / roadsides Principal habitat Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Natural grasslands Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Riverbanks Principal habitat Natural
Riverbanks Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Wetlands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Wetlands Principal habitat Natural
Wetlands Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Cold lands / tundra Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Scrub / shrublands Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Irrigation channels Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Irrigation channels Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Lakes Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Lakes Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Reservoirs Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Reservoirs Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Rivers / streams Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Rivers / streams Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Ponds Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Ponds Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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There is no evidence that J. ensifolius currently causes significant economic damage to any crop plants, although it apparently occurs as a minor  contaminant in grass seed mixes (Piirainen, 2004) or commercial peat (Kirschner, 2002). It is recorded as a competitor of seven endangered species in Hawaii – see the 'Host Plants/Plants Affected' and 'Threatened Species’ tables for more information.

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
Cyanea marksii (Marks' cyanea)CyaneidaeWild host
Cyanea tritomantha (`aku)CyaneidaeWild host
Cyrtandra nanawaleensisGesneriaceaeWild host
Cyrtandra wagneriGesneriaceaeWild host
Phyllostegia floribunda (Hawai'i phyllostegia)LamiaceaeWild host
Platydesma remyi (Hawai'i pilo kea)RutaceaeWild host
Pritchardia lanigeraArecaceaeWild host

Growth Stages

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Biology and Ecology

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Phylogenetic (cladistic) analysis of the Juncaceae performed using rbcL nucleotide sequences and chloroplast DNA (Drábková et al., 2003, 2004, 2006; Drábková, 2010) has confirmed that J. ensifolius is most closely related to other species of Juncus, subgenus Juncus, section Iridifolii, including J. oxymeris and J. xiphioides (also centred in the western US), and to species of section Ozophyllum (broadly distributed in eastern North America, Europe and the Far East).  J. ensifolius was found to differ from other species in lacking most of the anticodon domain of the trnF gene (Drábková et al., 2004). The chromosome number of J. ensifolius var. ensifolius, tested at disparate locations (Snogerup, 1963; Taylor and Mulligan, 1968; Harriman and Redmond, 1976; Probatova et al., 2004) was consistently 2n = 40. It is unclear whether the chromosome number of var. montanus (which differs from var. ensifolius in having 6 rather than 3 stamens) has been tested. 

Reproductive Biology

Juncus ensifolius reproduces both sexually and asexually (by means of rhizomes).  The flowers are wind-pollinated.  In Juncus species, flowers are bisexual. An individual flower opens only once for a few hours and very rarely for longer than 24 h (Buchenau, 1890, 1892, cited by Michalski and Durka, 2007). Plants grown at a botanical garden in Germany produced 1802 ± 324 (SD) pollen grains per flower and 49.0 ± 3.2 ovules per flower.  The pollen/ovule ratio of 37 ± 5 is unusually low for a wind-pollinated species, and the high rate of ovule production is thought to be advantageous in the open, ruderal and disturbed habitats favoured by this species (Michalski and Durka, 2010).  Many Juncus species appear to be capable of self-fertilization (Michalski and Durka, 2007; Huang et al., 2013), favouring higher energy investment in ovules. J. ensifolius may be one such species, as it does appear to produce prolific seeds, even in founder populations.

Juncus seeds are tiny, and those of J. ensifolius are small compared to other rushes (152,000/g). They are released when seed capsules shatter shortly after maturity (Hurd and Shaw, 1992).  J. ensifolius is common in soil seedbanks, and viable seeds are often found in mature forest vegetation where the species is absent from above-ground vegetation (Clark, 1991; Yearsley, 1993; Harmon and Franklin, 1995; Tu et al., 1998; Duncan, 2003; Reynolds and Cooper, 2011), suggesting that seeds can remain viable for decades to centuries.  Heating field-collected soil samples to 50oC stimulated germination of buried viable seed compared to unheated soils, but no germination occurred in soils heated to 150oC (Clark, 1991).  Light and chilling (30 days at 3-5o C) are recommended for germination in the nursery (Hurd and Shaw, 1992), but other reports suggest that seeds will readily germinate within 2 weeks without presoaking or stratification if sown on the soil surface or in shallow water (Steinfeld, 2001).

J. ensifolius spreads and forms loose to dense turfs or swards by means of slender, horizontal rhizomes. New plants can become established from rhizome fragments deposited in moist soil. Disturbance or damage to the rhizomes stimulates the production of new shoots from dormant or adventitious buds.  In cultivation it is not as strongly rhizomatous as J. balticus, for example, and is usually sold and planted out as a bareroot seedling stock, rather than as a rhizome cutting with buds (Whitacre, 2014).

Physiology and Phenology

Klarich (1977) studied respiration and photosynthetic rates of J. ensifolius in water taken from 3 reaches of the Madison River, Wyoming, USA. The pH of the water was lowest < 7.6) and free carbon dioxide was highest (8 ppm) in the upper reach where J. ensifolius was most abundant (1.6% cover).  Lower in the river (pH 8, free CO2 = 1 ppm) J. ensifolius was rare to absent. Photosynthetic rates, and the ratio of net photosynthesis to respiration were highest in carbon dioxide-rich waters from the upper reach of the river, while % light saturation levels were highest in the low carbon reach further down the river.  The rates of photosynthesis in J. ensifolius were much lower than those of the dominant macrophytes in the river, probably because they were true aquatic plants while J. ensifolius is only semi-aquatic and was thus ecologically marginal in the flowing river.

In an intertaxa laboratory comparison of 76 species of angiosperms (Wiley and Wilkins, 2006), the relative mean concentration of sulphur found in J. ensifolius (-0.94) was found to be very close to the mean of all species tested (-1.0), slightly lower than other wetland species tested (J. effusus -0.52; Carex nigra 0.39) but higher than most of the important food and forage grasses tested (typically -1.2 to -1.8). Other than these few studies, there does not appear to have been any physiological or experimental work done on J. ensifolius.

Within its native and introduced range, J. ensifolius most often grows in a cool temperate to southern boreal environment with a distinct winter dormant season, the length of which varies by several months depending on elevation, latitude and proximity to the ocean.  In moist, cool environments it is unlikely that there is a summer dormant period, although the wet soils in which it grows may experience a substantial draw-down in moisture levels from mid-summer to autumn. During this period, growth shifts from vegetative growth to seed maturation.  Typically in the Northern Hemisphere, flowering occurs in June and July (see Michalski and Durka, 2010, for other Juncus spp.) and seeds mature in August and September (Steinfeld, 2001), with capsules opening soon after maturation to shed the seed (Hurd and Shaw, 1992). In mild climates, it is likely that recharging of soil moisture in the fall initiates a period of root and possibly shoot growth prior to winter. 


J. ensifolius is a perennial with rhizomatous growth and commonly reproduces vegetatively. Its longevity has not been studied, but like most rhizomatous perennials it probably lives for long periods of time (at least many decades).  Seeds appear to have extended longevity (decades to centuries) in the soil (e.g. Clark, 1991; Harmon and Franklin, 1986).

Population Size and Structure

Patches of J. ensifolius described in the literature range from single plants or small clumps to extended patches covering dozens to hundreds of square meters.  These populations probably result from a combination of sexual and vegetative propagation as seeds germinate from the seed bank or recent dispersal and genets then expand in size through rhizomatous growth.


Seedlings in nursery cultivation are fertilized once weekly with all-purpose plant food (15-30-15) (Tilley, 2011). There are no published studies of plant nutrition in the wild.


In Hokkaido, Japan, J. ensifolius was found to grow with Carex michauxiana subsp. asiatica, Agrostis scabra and J. effusus in a mire that was disturbed by human trampling (Tachibana et al., 2001).

On Amchitka Island in the Aleutians, it was found in shallow pools of water surrounded by Empetrum heath in association with J. triglumis and Eriophorum russeolum [E. chamissonis] (Shacklette et al., 1969).

In British Columbia, Cowan (1945) described a low elevation Juncus-Carex-Isoetes lakeshore mudflat plant community on Vancouver Island that was submerged from October-June and grew prolifically from June-August.  Dominant species were Ranunculus flammula, Carex lenticularis, C. viridula,J. supiniformis and Isoetes maritima.  In the same area, J. ensifolius was also common in a Carex sitchensis [C. aquatilis var. dives]-Oenanthe sarmentosa-Deschampsia cespitosa meadow that resulted from the gradual filling-in of former lakes and ponds. Brett et al. (2001) described a J. ensifolius – Alnus viridis [A. alnobetula] association on a moist floodplain with a fluctuating water table —J. ensifolius and other graminoids formed the understorey. 

At Mt. Rainier, Washington state (Dunwiddie, 1986), J. ensifolius grew in saturated, seasonally inundated soil adjacent to a pond in association with Carex spp. and Eriophorum polystachion [E. angustifolium]. Nearby, at Mt. St. Helens (Moral, 1999), J. ensifolius was the dominant herb in a primary successional wetland association with Salix sitchensis, J. bufonius, J. articulatus and Brachythecium moss on relatively dry pumice with high pH, and as a secondary species in wetter Salix sitchensisEquisetum arvense and Typha latifolia – J. bufonius associations with lower pH.

In the US Intermountain region (Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado) J. ensifolius commonly occurs in sedge-willow associations adjacent to streambanks (Winward, 2000; Jones, 2005; Hough-Snee et al., 2013).  Typical associates include Carex utriculata, C. nebraskensis, C. aquatilis, Salix melanopsis, S. boothii, S. drummondiana,S. geyeriana, S. exigua, Agrostis scabra and Poa pratensis with the relative proportions of these species reflecting the degree of cattle and elk grazing disturbance.  Higher cover of J. ensifolius is considered indicative of low grazing pressure (Winward, 2000).

Outside its natural range, where J. ensifolius is naturalized or adventive, its most common associates are cosmopolitan weeds associated with highly disturbed habitats. Genera and species that have been repeatedly recorded as associates in Europe, Oceania and eastern North America  include Juncus, Plantago, Lotus, Phleum, Agrostis, Rumex, Ranunculus, Trifolium, Equisetum, and Carex (Adema and Mennema, 1976; Koch, 1991; Stolwijk and Zijlstra, 1995; Marr and Trull, 2002; Grøstad, 2003; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013; Atlas of Living Australia, 2015). 

Environmental Requirements

A seasonally fluctuating water table including temporary, but not year-round, inundation appears to be the most prominent feature of J. ensifolius habitats.  In humid climates, standing water does not appear to be obligatory – J. ensifolius is considered a facultative rather than an obligate wetland or aquatic species (Washington Native Plant Society, 2015).  Soils can be sandy or clayey, but are never well- or rapidly-drained. J. ensifolius appears to tolerate mildly saline soils (coastal and inland) and a wide range of soil pH.

Climatically its habitats can be described as cool, moist temperate.  In the south temperate to Mediterranean zone it appears to be mostly limited to high elevations (e.g. subalpine forests and parkland), whereas in the north temperate zone it is common near sea level.


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BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Tolerated < 430mm annual precipitation
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Df - Continental climate, wet all year Preferred Continental climate, wet all year (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, wet all year)
ET - Tundra climate Tolerated Tundra climate (Average temp. of warmest month < 10°C and > 0°C)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
61 44

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -47
Mean annual temperature (ºC) -1 23
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 19 36
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) -26 8


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration011number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall2836903mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • impeded
  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • saline

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Bipolaris palousensis Pathogen Leaves
Cercospora juncina Pathogen Leaves to genus
Claviceps Pathogen Inflorescence to genus
Paratylenchus elongatus Parasite Roots to genus
Phaeosphaeria alpina Pathogen Leaves/Stems not specific
Uromyces junci-effusi Pathogen Leaves to genus

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Fungi: Uromyces junci-effusi (formerly Nigredo junci-effusi) is a rust in the family Puccinaceae that produces spots on the leaves of Juncus spp. in North America (Garrett, 1919). It is the most widely reported fungus on J. ensifolius (Farr and Rossman, 2015). Phaeosphaeria alpina is an ascomycete fungus that parasitizes the leaves, stems and foliar parts of a wide variety of grasslike plants in Europe and North America.  It was collected on J. ensifolius in an alpine meadow at Revelstoke, British Columbia (Shoemaker and Babcock, 1989). Bipolaris palousensis (also palousense) is a leaf spot or “blotch” fungus collected on J. ensifolius  foliage in Washington (1948) and Oregon (1957) (Sprague, 1961; Manamgoda et al., 2012).  Bipolaris are important pathogens of graminoids worldwide and this is the only Bipolaris reported on Juncus ensifolius; however, it remains a doubtful species as the existing specimen is in poor condition (Alcorn, 1991; Manamgoda et al., 2012). Cercospora juncina is another leaf spot fungus found on species of Juncus (Kasai, 1922), including J. ensifolius (Farr and Rossman, 2015). A species of Claviceps, a floral pathogen known as “ergot” that infects the ovaries of graminoids, has been found on J. ensifolius and several other Juncus spp. in Canada and California, but has not been identified at the species level because only conidia were present (Alderman et al., 2004).

A nematode (Gracilacus elongata [Paratylenchus elongatus]) has been described as parasitic on J. ensifolius in California (Abdel-Rahman and Maggenti 1988).

Although insects commonly feed on Juncus species, especially their seeds (Hurd and Shaw, 1992), J. ensifolius is not identified as a host plant on any insect-host plant database.

Muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) are known to feed on the roots/rhizomes of J. ensifolius. Waterfowl (e.g. Canada geese – Branta spp.), deer, elk (Cervus canadensis), cattle and horses can cause significant damage by grazing.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

Seeds and rhizome fragments are naturally dispersed by water.

Vector Transmission (Biotic)

Seeds and rhizome fragments can be carried or eaten by animals, especially birds (see for example Rehm, 2015).

Accidental Introduction

This can take place through trade and transport of hay, grass seed mixtures and peat (Piirainen, 2004); seeds can be spread by vehicles or other machinery.

Intentional Introduction

J. ensifolius is planted in artificial wetlands (e.g. Iasur-Kruh et al., 2010) for environmental enhancement and wildlife food, and in garden ponds for its ornamental value and to attract wildlife. It is shipped intra- and internationally through the live plant nursery trade, native plant seed sales and probably also in wetland restoration seed mixes. Examples of its online availability for ornamental purposes include Caribbean Garden (2015) and Le Jardin du Pic Vert (2015).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Animal productionAccidentally transported in hooves, faeces, fur. Yes Yes
Breeding and propagationDeliberately for wetland restoration or ornamental use Yes Yes
Crop productionAccidental contaminant in hay, peat or soil Yes Yes Kirschner, 2002
Digestion and excretionProbably transported by waterfowl, deer, livestock Yes Yes Cowan, 1945; Koch, 1991
DisturbanceDominant means of local accidental spread is by disturbance of wet soil, e.g. in ditch construction Yes
Escape from confinement or garden escape Yes
Flooding and other natural disasters Yes
ForageUsed as livestock forage by Paiute people of Oregon Yes Mahar, 1953
HitchhikerAccidental contaminant in seeds/peat/soil, with other aquatic plants, or on people or vehicles Yes Dörr, 1995; Pohjakallio and Hämet-Ahti, 1974; Poland, 2005
HorticultureAccidental contaminant in commercial seed, peat or soil Yes Grøstad, 2003
Intentional releaseDeliberately introduced in wetland restoration and artificial ponds Yes Adamus and Holzhauser, 2006; Woosaree, 2000
Internet salesCan be purchased from native seed suppliers and nurseries in North America and Europe Yes
Landscape improvement Yes
Medicinal useUsed medicinally by the Hoh and Quileute peoples of Washington state Yes Yes Reagan, 1936
Nursery tradeNursery stock sold in USA & Europe Yes
Ornamental purposesDeliberately introduced outside native range as an attractive feature for ponds & bog gardens Yes
People foragingBulbs eaten as food by Swinomish peoples of Washington State Yes Gunther, 1973
People sharing resources Yes Yes Gunther, 1973; Schenck and Gifford, 1952
Seed tradeSeed sold for native plant restoration Yes NZPCN, New Zealand Plant Conservation Network
SmugglingLikely to occur Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Land vehicles Yes
Livestock Yes
Machinery and equipment Yes NZPCN, New Zealand Plant Conservation Network
Mulch, straw, baskets and sod Yes
Pets and aquarium species Yes NZPCN, New Zealand Plant Conservation Network
Soil, sand and gravel Yes NZPCN, New Zealand Plant Conservation Network
Water Yes NZPCN, New Zealand Plant Conservation Network

Impact Summary

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Cultural/amenity Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative
Human health Positive

Economic Impact

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No significant economic impact has as yet been reported.  Although J. ensifolius has been reported as a significant invader of wetlands in the Midwest-Great Lakes region of the United States, it is not yet ranked as sufficiently important to warrant targeted control action (Keller, 2007).  In Hawaii, it has been reported as a significant threat to the survival of endangered and threatened indigenous plant species, but no economic analysis of the degree of threat has been undertaken, and it is not evident whether or not control action has been undertaken.  Similarly, in Europe, New Zealand and Australia, although J. ensifolius has been identified as invasive (or adventive and potentially invasive), there are no records yet of economic loss and no evidence of targeted control action.

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Biodiversity

In the upper montane wetlands of Hawaii, Juncus ensifolius is listed as a threat to several endangered native Hawaiian plant species (US Fish and Wildlife Service 2012, 2013), listed in the Threatened Species Table. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (2012 and 2013, on pp. 63951 and 64665 respectively) report it as a competitor with endangered species in “lowland wet ecosystems” only.  This may  be an error as other literature sources indicate that it occurs in upper montane wet ecosystems in Hawaii (e.g. Daehler, 2005), which is more consistent with its climatological niche.

(See also the ‘Gaps in Knowledge’ section).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Cyanea marksii (Marks' cyanea)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition; Rapid growthUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013
Cyanea tritomantha (`aku)VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition; Rapid growthUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013
Cyrtandra nanawaleensisUSA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition; Rapid growthUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013
Cyrtandra wagneriNatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition; Rapid growthUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013
Phyllostegia floribunda (Hawai'i phyllostegia)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition; Rapid growthUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013
Platydesma remyi (Hawai'i pilo kea)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition; Rapid growthUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013
Pritchardia lanigeraEN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition; Rapid growthUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - smothering
  • Competition
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant


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Economic Value

J. ensifolius is commonly planted and performs well in mitigation wetlands developed to offset loss of wetlands elsewhere.  In Western Canada it was one of the leading wetland plants sold in the native plant industry in 1998 and 1999 when the industry as a whole (wetlands plus upland environments) grossed approximately $7 million annually (Woosaree, 2000). No information is available on the current value of seed and plant sales.

Social Benefit

J. ensifolius is a popular and attractive amenity plant in garden ponds where it also enhances the wildlife values of backyard gardens.  Its use in wetland restoration (e.g. Adamus and Holzhauser, 2006) also provides health and recreational benefits associated with having functional wetlands near communities. Historically the plant was used by indigenous peoples in western North America, but only in a minor way.  There are records indicating that Karok children were taught to weave mats and baskets using J. ensifolius fibre, although more durable materials were used by experienced weavers (Schenk and Gifford 1952).  There was also some use of the seeds, roots, rhizomes and other plant parts as food, fodder and medicine among the Hoh, Paiute, Quilete and Swinomish peoples of Oregon and Washington (Reagan, 1936; Mahar, 1953; Gunther, 1973).    

Environmental Services

As an important wetland plant, both in disturbed and intact environments, J. ensifolius contributes to a variety of wetland ecosystem services including regulating the supply and quality of water, absorbing chemicals and filtering pollutants and sediments, reducing soil erosion, decomposing suspended solids and neutralizing harmful bacteria, carbon sequestration and forage and shelter for animal life.

It has been used in upland (Zabinski and Cole, 2000) and wetland (Adamus and Holzhauser, 2006) ecosystem restoration projects within its native range in western North America, and has been either deliberately or unintentionally introduced in wetland mitigation and artificial wetland construction projects undertaken outside of its native range, for example on Rhode Island (Eastern Illinois University, 2015) and in Israel (Iasur-Kruh et al., 2010).

Wildlife Habitat

J. ensifolius is a moderately important forage species for deer and American elk (Cervus canadensis) (Cowan, 1945; Marquez, 1988) in western North America, particularly near the Pacific coast where it is common in wet meadows. The wetland, riparian and estuarine meadow habitats where it grows are exceptionally important for a wide range of wildlife, but little is known about its nutritional quality and the degree to which it is preferred relative to other forage species.  A wide variety of shorebirds, songbirds, gamebirds and waterfowl eat the seeds.  Larger waterfowl such as Canada geese (Branta spp.) will graze on the leaves. Muskrats eat the roots and rhizomes. Smaller animals use J. ensifolius as shelter and nesting material and lay their eggs among the rhizomes, stems and leaves (Rehm, 2015).

Uses List

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  • Amenity
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Landscape improvement
  • Revegetation
  • Soil conservation
  • Wildlife habitat


  • Botanical garden/zoo
  • Laboratory use
  • Sociocultural value


  • Fibre

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore


  • Propagation material
  • Seed trade

Detection and Inspection

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J. ensifolius is a low-statured plant that would be difficult to detect remotely, although ditchlines and areas with wet soil and shallow standing water that can be identified from images should be targeted in surveys.  It can be readily identified visually by its combination of flattened leaves and dark, globular seedheads. Similar species can be readily distinguished as described in the ‘Similarities to Other Species’ section.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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J. ensifolius is a very distinctive plant because of its dagger or sword-shaped leaves (folded and flattened at the base like those of an iris) and the fact that it almost always bears prominent clusters of densely globular dark, purplish-brown flowers and fruit below or at the tip of the foliage.  Throughout much of its native range and in Europe there are no other plants that combine these two features and it is unlikely to be confused with any other species.  However in the southwestern USA (California and adjacent states) and in east Asia there are several other rushes in the section Iridifolii (Kirschner et al., 1999) with flattened iris-like leaves that could possibly be confused with J. ensifolius. In most of these species the flowerheads are less evidently globular and paler in colour or the inflorescences are more diffuse, radiating outwards well above the leaves. J. xiphioides is a larger plant with spreading, brown inflorescences, whose range overlaps with J. ensifolius in California, Nevada and Arizona. J. oxymeris, which extends north from California to southern British Columbia, is also a larger plant with a more diffuse inflorescence with pointed fruit capsules (in British Columbia, although rare and at its northern limit, it is often confused with the more common J. ensifolius (Lomer, 2011)). J. macrandrus, endemic to California, has greenish-brown to greenish inflorescences that radiate star-like at some distance above the foliage. J. phaeocephalus, a tall rush that ranges from Baja California to southern Washington, and J. polycephalus, found in the southeastern U.S. outside the range of J. ensifolius, bear their fruit in open panicles with long stalks.  J. alatus, found in east Asia, and J. prismatocarpus, widely distributed through east Asia to New Zealand and Australia, also have loose, pale inflorescences. In New Zealand, J. ensifolius may be confused with the native J. prismatocarpus, which also has flattened, multitubular septate leaves (NZPCN, 2015).

Prevention and Control

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There is no available literature on the prevention and control of J. ensifolius invasion. Initial development of management practices, where management is necessary, must therefore be derived indirectly from other sources, including generic practices recommended for other invasive species.

Public Awareness

As online plant nurseries are selling J. ensifolius internationally, an initial step in building public awareness would be to contact growers offering this species for sale online and advise them that it is considered invasive and should not be sold to customers outside of its home range in western North America.  This step is probably most relevant to growers selling it to customers in Hawaii, where it is identified under an order in the Endangered Species Act as threatening endangered Hawaiian plant species (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013).

Physical/Mechanical Control

J. ensifolius has been shown to be sensitive to ungulate grazing in the western U.S., so potential control measures could involve repeated mowing or controlled grazing. Goats and sheep have been employed to control other Juncus spp., in New Zealand and Australia (Rolston et al. 1981; MLA, 2007), but unless very carefully regulated, these animals may cause greater environmental damage than they prevent. On wet ground, repeated mowing may not be feasible due to low trafficability and therefore may be only of limited value (Sellers and Farrell, 2015).

Movement Control

Collaborative intervention with nursery associations and native plant societies to reduce or prevent sales of this species outside of its native range are probably the most promising avenue for reducing further spread beyond existing occurrences. 

Biological Control

Although J. ensifolius has a number of natural enemies (see ‘Natural Enemies’ section), there are no reports of their use for biological control.

Chemical Control

There is no information available on the sensitivity of J. ensifolius to herbicides. In a recent trial, chemical formulations containing 2, 4–D amine were the most successful among 5 chemical products tested for control of J. effusus in Florida (Sellers and Farrell, 2015). High water tables and the potential for runoff may limit the use of chemical control agents for this species in sensitive environments.

Monitoring and Surveillance (Incl. Remote Sensing)

No information is available on this subject, but as a low-statured plant J. ensifolius will be more difficult to monitor remotely than larger invasive plants.  Most of the habitats where it grows do not have tree cover and may be suitable for low-level aerial photography.

Ecosystem Restoration

There is no published literature describing ecosystem restoration to address invasion by J. ensifolius.  Such action may have been undertaken in montane wetlands in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park to restore endangered plants reportedly threatened by this species, but J. ensifolius is not listed by Belfield et al (2011) among the alien species subjected to control actions.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Three important gaps in our knowledge of J. ensifolius are:

(1) Invasiveness: Is it an aggressive species that actively interferes with native species and warrants direct control action or will it remain a minor associate of other wetland plants at most new locations?  In disturbed soils, does it disappear as succession proceeds?  Does it spread beyond ditches into undisturbed habitats? Assessments done to date have confirmed its presence at a growing number of sites but none have yet ranked it as a high priority for control.

In Hawai’i, it would be worthwhile clarifying the mechanisms by which J. ensifolius threatens each of the endangered species with which it was associated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2013). All of these are much larger-statured plants than J. ensifolius, and at least a few of them do not appear to grow in cool, montane wetland (wet soil) situations. It is possible that presence of J. ensifolius represents a correlation with disturbed habitats rather than a cause of endangerment for these species.

Brooks and Clemants (2000) suggested that additional taxonomic work was needed to determine whether var. montanus warrants treatment as a separate species. From a plant invasions perspective, it would be of interest to determine whether both varieties exhibit invasive behaviour or whether the six-stamened variety is less weedy than the three-stamened var. ensifolius.

(2) Control measures: Treatments that kill the seed in contaminated peat, soil or hay and the efficacy of mowing or controlled grazing are two examples where more information about control measures would be useful. It may be possible to develop attractive sterile cultivars of this plant for the nursery trade.

(3) Distribution in Asia and other regions of the developing world:  Potential habitats exist near sea level in coastal temperate South America (Patagonia), southern Africa (equivalent climate to California) and temperate East Asia, and in cool, montane environments worldwide.


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Abdel-Rahman F; Maggenti AR, 1988. Gracilacus elongata n. sp. (Nemata: Criconematoidea) parasitic on Juncus ensifolius Wikstr. from Mendocino, California. Revue de Nématologie, 11(3):303-306.

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Drábková L; Kirschner J; Seberg O; Petersen G; Vlcek C, 2003. Phylogeny of the Juncaceae based on rbcL sequences, with special emphasis on Luzula DC. and Juncus L. Plant Systematics and Evolution, 240(1/4):133-147.

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Links to Websites

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Atlas of Living Australia
Consortium of Midwest Herbaria (US)
Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria
Manual of the Invasive Plants of Belgium
New Zealand Plant Conservation Network
USDA Agriculture Research Service Fungal Databases – Fungal Host Distributions


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05/12/2015 Original text by:

Sybille Haeussler, University of Northern British Columbia, British Columbia, Canada

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