Juncus tenuis (slender rush)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Juncus tenuis Willd.
Preferred Common Name
- slender rush
Other Scientific Names
- Juncus bicornis Michx.
- Juncus chloroticus Schult. & Schult.f.
- Juncus germanorum Steud.
- Juncus lucidus Hochst.
International Common Names
- English: path rush; poverty rush; soft rush
Local Common Names
- English: sharp rush; slender yard rush; wiregrass
- Austria: Zart-Simse
- China: jian bei deng xin cao
- Czech Republic: s¡tina tenk
- Denmark: tue-siv
- Estonia: sale luga
- France: jone grèle
- Germany: zarte binse; zarte binse
- Latvia: laibasis viksris
- Lithuania: maigais donis
- Norway: ballastsiv
- Poland: sit chudy
- Sweden: syltág
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Juncus tenuis, commonly known as slender rush, is a clump-forming, tufted perennial herb. In its native environment in the Americas, J. tenuis is not usually considered ‘weedy’ since it is relatively small and commonly grows as a plant of pathways and road verges. It is named as a minor weed of alfalfa in Oklahoma, USA. It has also been reported to sometimes invade urban lawns and to cause problems on golf courses in North America. It has been introduced to parts of Asia, Africa, Europe and Oceania, most probably unintentionally since seeds are sticky and readily attach to animals, clothes and car tyres. It is regarded as invasive in Hawaii (PIER, 2016). It has also been recently reported among invasive species in Croatian forestry (Horvat & Franjic, 2016).
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Monocotyledonae
- Order: Cyperales
- Family: Juncaceae
- Genus: Juncus
- Species: Juncus tenuis
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
DescriptionTop of page
The following is modified from PIER, 2016, after Wagner et al., 1999:
Perennial herb, stems 10-60 cm tall, 1-2 mm in diameter, growing in clumps from short, densely branching rhizomes (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2016). Leaves numerous, basal, crowded, blades variable in length, 7-30 cm long, 1-1.3 mm wide, sheaths loose with wide transparent margins, prolonged into white membranous auricles up to 5 mm long. Flowers 3 to many borne singly on one side of the rachis, in relatively compact dichasial cymes (all branches below the terminal flower are in regular opposite pairs) 1-7 cm long, forming less than 1/3 of the plant height, bracts 2-3, leaf-like, usually much longer than the inflorescence. Each flower subtended by 2 hyaline, triangular-ovate membranous bracteoles. Perianth parts greenish, lanceolate, 3-4.5 mm long, apex tapering to a point, outer ones slightly reflexed at the tip, inner ones with wide transparent margins towards the base. Stamens 6, half as long as perianth, anthers shorter than filaments. Capsules reddish brown, 1-celled, broadly ovoid, thin-walled, slightly beaked, 2/3 of or hardly shorter than the perianth. Seeds pale brown, oblong, 0.3-0.4 mm long, slightly pointed at both ends. The seeds become sticky when wet.
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
J. tenuis is often said to be native to North America (Healy and Edgar, 1980; Stace, 2010; USDA-ARS, 2016), but Wagner et al., 1999 (cited in PIER, 2016) claims a more cosmopolitan native distribution, including Europe, Asia and Australia. However, whatever its origin, it is now widespread in many parts of the world.
Scully (1889) and Preagar (1934), both quoted in Richards (1943) suggested that the species may be native to southwest Ireland because it is found there in very remote, little-visited districts and that it grows in natural habits and not as a roadside weed.
Distribution TableTop of page
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.Last updated: 17 Feb 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Present||Introduced|
|Portugal||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|Russia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|Canada||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Newfoundland and Labrador||Present||Native|
|-Prince Edward Island||Present||Native|
|Mexico||Present||Native||Chiapas, Coahtuila, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Veracruz|
|United States||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-District of Columbia||Present||Native||Original citation: Flora of North America Editorial Committee (2016)|
|-Hawaii||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Hawaii, Kauai, Maui, Molokai|
|-New South Wales||Present||Introduced|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
J. tenuis is possibly native to North America but has been spread from there, presumably accidentally as its small sticky seeds readily adhere to other plant material, animal fur, and packing material. In addition it is often found in close proximity to humans, growing as it does alongside paths. It was first recorded in Britain in 1795 (under the name of Juncus gracilis Sm., and later Juncus mercer (Richards, 1943; Stace, 2010) but was not then recorded again until 1844 and 1863 (Richards, 1943). These scarce early records suggest that this species was indeed introduced to Britain. Since then it has become ‘locally frequent throughout most of the British Isles except the Outer Isles’ (Stace, 2010).
According to Richards (1943) it was first observed in continental Europe in 1824 and there too, by 1943 it was ‘widely distributed from France and Northern Italy to Jutland. Bohus and Smaland in Sweden and eastwards to Bohemia, the middle Dnieper, upper Volga, Volga-Don, Crimea, Caucusus and Transcaucasia in the USSR.’ It now seems to be widespread throughout much of Europe and is still spreading. Seeds were accidentally distributed as far afield as Australia and New Zealand in the late 1800s, and even to remote St Helena in the South Atlantic (ISSG, 2016).
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|Australia||1902||Yes||Yes||Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (2016)||Sydney, New South Wales|
|New Zealand||1877||Yes||Healy and Edgar (1980)||Amuri, Canterbury and Ngaruawahia|
|UK||1795||Yes||Richards (1943)||Rare, in marshy ground among mountains, Angusshire|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
J. tenuis has small, sticky seeds which are easily overlooked. For this reason there is considerable danger of the species being accidentally introduced into new countries, and of further spread within those countries where it is already present. However, its spread is most likely to be limited to paths, tracks and roadsides.
HabitatTop of page
Both in its native Americas and in Europe and elsewhere this species seems to prefer disturbed habitats where competition from other plants is at a minimum. It is commonly found alongside pathways in a range of places like open woodlands, gravely seeps, pastures, abandoned fields and other waste areas. It is better adapted to surviving on hard-trodden paths and tracks than many other species.
For example Stace (2010) in Britain mentions its habitat as ‘damp, barish ground on roadsides, tracks and paths’. In New Zealand, too, Healy (1982) says of the species ‘tolerant of trampling and mechanical injury and therefore a weed of shingle drives, farm yards, paths, tracks, and roadways: in some localities forms distinct colonies along the shoulders of bitumen roads, and in country districts along shoulders and crowns of shingle roads.’ However, Healy (1982) also points out that this is not the only habitat and that it is ‘a persistent weed of damp pastures, swamp margins, damp waste places, poached (i.e. trampled) gateways: in recent years has become more significant in pastures in some higher rainfall districts.’
In its native environment in North America Hilty (2011) said that the species is very common in Illinois, where its habitats include ‘open woodlands, gravelly seeps, footpaths with compacted soil (where it is especially common), pastures and abandoned fields, gravelly margins of roadways, and barren waste areas.’
Almost all authors in a wide range of countries stress that the typical habitat of J. tenuis is along footpaths or tracks or roadways, due partly to its method of seed dispersal and partly to an apparent preference for compacted soil. However Richards (1943) also listed a number of mostly British plant communities in which the species can be found, sometimes growing in dense shade where it can flower. He says, for example, that it is found in dense shade ‘in the woods proper on the edges of drains’ in Aldershot Wood, Dorset, Britain.
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
2n= 30, 32, 84 (Encyclopedia of Life, 2016; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016), while Flora of North America Editorial Committee (2016) quotes 2n=80 and Stace (2010), in Britain, indicates 2n=32, 40, 80, 84.
In Wales and northern Britain plants flower between late June and August but flowering may continue spasmodically until the first frosts (Richards, 1943). The flowers open between 7 am and 8 am and most close by mid-day but some may stay open until late afternoon. Fruits ripen from July to September and some capsules continue to open until the onset of winter. Some seed may remain in the capsules until the following spring.
In North America, plants flower in spring or early summer (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2016).
The flowers are very slightly protogynous and pollination is by wind. Richards (1943) quotes Graebner (1934) in saying that the anthers begin to dehisce about an hour after the flower opens and this is completed between 9 and 10 am. The ripe stigmas are already visible before the flowers opened.
Richards (1943) mentioned that seeds were counted in nine capsules and the average number was 268, ranging from 87 to 348. Salisbury (1974) counted the seeds in 91 capsules, with an average of 175.8 seeds per capsule and a range of 60 to over 450. From these data and a knowledge of capsule number Salisbury suggested an average seed output of about 30,000 seeds per plant. He also said that the number of infructescences (presumably flower heads and therefore capsules) per plant is usually six or seven but that as many as 28 have been observed.
The small, yellow-brown seeds have an average weight of 0.014 to 0.0174 mg and become very mucilaginous and sticky when wet, making them easily transported on footwear, tyres, feathers, fur. This is partly why plants are common along footpaths and animal trails (Salisbury, 1974).
Physiology and Phenology
Salisbury (1974) observed that about 30% of sown seed germinated in some cases in the autumn after their ripening and in other cases in the following spring, presumably depending on climatic conditions. Mayer & Poljakoff-Mayber (1963) record that germination is geater in the light.
Richards (1943) observed that the outer layer of the testa becomes mucilaginous and swells enormously on wetting, the seeds often forcing the capsule open. ‘During rainy weather the large slimy transparent masses of seeds resembling frog’s spawn adhere to the dehisced capsules.’ The seeds are readily spread on the feet of people, mammals and birds, and on the tyres of vehicles.
Richards (1943) says plants are ‘strikingly variable in size and when in flower from 10 to 60 cm high, but usually 15-35 cm: possibly this great variability may be partly due to some plants flowering in their first summer.’ The main flowering season is summer to autumn in Western Europe and North America (Richards, 1943; Pojar and MacKInnon, 1994).
In Britain, Richards (1943) says that fruit ripen from July to September but that some capsules continue to ripen until the onset of winter. In North America, however, Hoffman (2012) says that harvesting seeds (for conservation projects) occurs typically inearly July in the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
Plants appear to be long-lived, even on upland sites, and can probably produce seed for over 5 years (Hoffman, 2012). However erect shoots die down in winter, leaving rosettes of green leaves (Richards, 1943). In Britain Richards (1943) suggests that the species is a short-lived perennial but quotes Graebner (1934) as saying that in Europe it tends to die away after a few years but in moderately wet places the tufts reached a much greater diameter and could survive for several years. By contrast in wet or very shady habitats plants almost always died out after their second year.
Seed stored under dry conditions remain viable for at least 2 years (Richards, 1943). Mayer & Poljakoff-Mayber (1963) record that seed can retain viability in the field for at least 4 years even under flooded conditions.
Hoffman (2012) says that seeds are not dormant and germinate in the spring as soils warm. By contrast, Salisbury (1974) says that in some years, germination can take place in either the autumn or spring after seed was sown in October, presumably depending on climatic conditions and possible the provenance of the seeds.
Erect shoots die down completely in winter, leaving rosettes of green leaves (Westmorland, 1941-2), mentioned by Richards (1943).
Population Size and Structure
Richards (1943) said that that this species does not form extensive stands like other members of the genus but grows in small, isolated tufts. Sometimes, however, these tufts may be so abundant that they are in lateral contact and form a more or less continuous zone along the roadside.
The species is most commonly found growing in open places with no or little competition from other species. Richards (1943), for example says ‘On paths through grass fields it only occurs where the [foot] traffic is sufficient to wear bare patches in the turf’. However in Europe it is also found along ‘woodland rides’ and sometimes ‘in dense shade’. In North America, too, Hoffman (2012) says that it can grow in ‘wet, compacted clayey soils in highly trafficked and/or rocky areas.’ He also says that it typically prefers full sun to light shade. Hoffman also says that it grows on freshwater sites with saturated soil in winter and dry conditions in summer, and adds that it is common in disturbed areas with seeps and springs such as prairies, meadows, shaded roads and ditches.
According to Richards (1943) the plants generally, if not always, grow on slightly acid, more or less base-deficient soils of clayey, loamy or gritty texture.
ClimateTop of page
|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|
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||4||21|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||21||32|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||-12||6|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Mean annual rainfall||1200||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
- seasonally waterlogged
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
In Britain there seem to be no records of insect visitors to the plant, nor of parasites and diseases (Richards, 1943). Hoffman (2012) also says that in North America no significant pests are associated with this species. Some rust has been observed on plants but this does not seem to affect seed production.
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Natural Dispersal (non-biotic)
Although the seeds are very small and light they are unlikely to be spread by air currents because the seeds are very mucilaginous and in rainy weather clump together to form large transparent masses of seeds (Richards, 1943).
Vector Transmission (biotic)
The small seeds become very mucilaginous and sticky when wet, making them easily transported on clothing, footwear, tyres, feathers and fur. This is partly why plants are common along footpaths and animal trails (Salisbury, 1974). Richards (1943) suggested that the accelerated spread of the species through Britain in the first half of the 20th century may be due to the increase in vehicular traffic which can carry the seeds attached to the tyres. Seeds of J. tenuis remain viable after ingestion by sika deer, so some dispersal may occur this way (Ishikawa, 2010).
Presumably this is how this mostly useless rush species has been distributed around the world, probably because its tiny, sticky seeds have been spread by attachment to clothing and footwear as well as to vegetable matter used as animal fodder or packing material long before biosecurity was considered important.
J. tenuis appears to be readily available from a number of North American nurseries (California Native Plant Society, 2016), presumably either in plant or seed form and so could easily be spread by post to other countries.
Pathway CausesTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
Economic ImpactTop of page
Where J. tenuis grows in pastures it presumably reduces the availability of useful palatable pasture species and must therefore reduce pasture productivity to some extent. However, although it does grow in pastures, its most common habitat seems to be at the edges of footpaths and roads where it presumably has very little economic effect.
Hilty (2011) says that it is usually avoided by mammalian herbivores since the foliage becomes stringy and tough when mature.
However on golf courses in the United States it can be a problem in limited areas like fairways, because it can be difficult to mow (Hutto et al., 2007).
J. tenuis is named as a weed of alfalfa in Oklahoma, USA, where the comment is ‘occasionally present, but seldom a problem’ (Weeds of Oklahoma, 2016).
Environmental ImpactTop of page
There seems to be little mention in published work of any environmental impacts of this small and mostly inconspicuous rush.
Impact on Habitats
The only report of adverse effects on habitats seems to be that on the nesting sites of the St. Helena plover. On the isolated South Atlantic island of St. Helena, J. tenuis is one of the grass-like species considered responsible for the reduction in suitable nesting sites for the critically endangered Saint Helena plover (Charadrius sanctaehelenae) (Varnham, 2006; IUCN, 2016).
Social ImpactTop of page
Hutto et al. (2007) say that on golf courses this species can be a problem in high-traffic areas where golf carts or equipment consistently run in rough areas along the fairways: it can then become established in fairways if seed is dispersed there.
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- 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
- Tolerant of shade
- Highly mobile locally
- Fast growing
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
- Difficult to identify/detect in the field
UsesTop of page
In North America, Hoffman (2012) points out that the seeds of this species are actually harvested in Oregon and used for erosion control, for biofilters, and as a groundcover or landscaping plant.
Poverty rush was used medicinally by the Native American Cherokee in an infusion used as a wash to strengthen babies, and prevent against lameness. Additionally, it was used in a decoction to dislodge spoiled saliva (Hamel and Chiltosky, 1975, cited in Hoffman, 2012).
Native American Iroquois runners and lacrosse players used poverty rush in a decoction or infusion to induce vomiting, or as a wash (Herrick, 1977, cited in Hoffman, 2012)
Hoffman (2012) lists a number of environmental uses for J. tenuis in its native North America, where it is used for erosion control along streambanks and in drainage stabilization due to its bunched growth form, and its ability to grow in saturated and compacted soils. Another use is as a biofilter where it can be used in the bottom of constructed bioswales as a groundlayer. It is also used in the scrub shrub layer as a ground cover in constructed wetlands (Jurries, 2003). In landscaping it is also useful as a groundcover, or water plant, in a rain garden due to its ability to grow in compacted and saturated soils.
It also provides food and shelter for wildlife, since some upland gamebirds and granivorous songbirds feed on its seeds. In addition, it is used as material for nest construction, and as cover for foraging animals (Hoffman, 2012).
Uses ListTop of page
- Erosion control or dune stabilization
- Land reclamation
- Landscape improvement
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
In Illinois, USA, (Hilty, 2011) notes that Juncus interior (inland rush) and Juncus dudleyi (Dudley’s rush) are similar in appearance to J. tenuis but are usually larger plants. J. tenuis has a prominent pair of fragile, membranous lanceolate extensions (auricles) at the top of its basal sheaths. J. interior has a pair of short, soft, rounded auricles, whilst J. dudleyi has a pair of short auricles that are hard and rounded.
In New Zealand and elsewhere, J. tenuis can be confused with Juncus bufonius but plants are not easy to pull from the soil and the flower heads are less than one-quarter of the plant height: J. bufonius plants are easily pulled from the ground and the flower head often makes up two-thirds of the height of the plant (Champion et al., 2012).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Cultural control and sanitary measures
Mammalian herbivores typically avoid J. tenuis as the plant material becomes stringy and tough when mature (Hilty, 2011). But sheep confined to small areas at high stocking rates can give improved control of rushes (Popay and Field, 1996). Goats provide even better control at a minimum stocking rate of 12 goats/ha.
The species is very resistant to trampling, cutting and grazing (Richards, 1943).
The species does not seem to be important enough as a weed to be considered as a target for biological control.
Glyphosate would probably give adequate control, but adjacent grasses or other vegetation would also be damaged.
Hutto et al. (2007) evaluated the effects of 2,4-D and 2,4-D mixtures for control of J. tenuis without damaging Bermuda grass (Cynodon spp.). The best results at 15 weeks after treatment were two treatments three weeks apart in April and May (in 2003) or May and June (in 2004), with either 2,4-D ester or 2,4-D ester in mixture with mecoprop (MCPP) and dicamba. With both materials control of 95% of J. tenuis was achieved with little damage to the Bermuda grass. The authors, however, recommend additional research to verify these results. Other herbicides with apparent pre-emergence activity against J. tednuis include atrazine, simazine, halosulfuron, bentazone and imazaquine (NDR Clinic, 2016), It may be suppressed in turf and in cranberry by mesotrione (FIFRA, 2016).
Control by utilization
Sheep confined to small areas at high stocking rates can give improved control of rushes (Popay and Field, 1996). Goats provide even better control at a minimum stocking rate of 12 goats/ha. Note that Hilty (2011) warns that the plants become stringy and tough when mature, which would be more of a deterrent to sheep than to goats.
ReferencesTop of page
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California Native Plant Society, 2016. Poverty Rush; Juncus tenuis; slender rush. Sacramento, California, USA: Californian Native Plant Society (CNPS). http://calscape.org/Juncus-tenuis-(Poverty-Rush)?srchcr=sc560cb1c497581
Champion P; James T; Popay I; Ford KA, 2012. An Illustrated Guide to Common Grasses, Sedges and Rushes of New Zealand. Christchurch, New Zealand: New Zealand Protection Society (Inc.), 182 pp.
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NDRW Clinic, 2016. Herbicide Control of Juncus tenuis (Le Controle de l'Herbicide de Juncus tenuis). http://www.ndrwclinic.com/zmkbEvj/
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26/04/2016 Original text by:
Ian Popay, Consultant, New Zealand
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