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Sparganium erectum1.jpg
Simplestem Bur-reed (Sparganium erectum)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Typhaceae
Genus: Sparganium

About 20 species; see text

Sparganium (Bur-reed) is a genus of flowering plants, containing about 20 species in temperate regions of both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. It was previously placed alone in the family Sparganiaceae. The plants are perennial marsh plants that can grow to 3.5 m (depending on the species), with epicene flowers.

The Sparganiaceae are closely related to the Typhaceae and the APG III system (2009) includes Sparganium in that family. It has been determined from phylogenetic analysis to be the closest living relative of the genus Typha (cat-tail).


Sparganium, commonly known as the bur-reed, is a genus of aquatic plants of shallow marshes, ponds and streams. There are 9 species found in the United States and Canada.[1] The stem, which may be floating or emergent, emerges from a buried rhizome, which like many wetland plants, is dependent upon aerenchyma to transport oxygen to the rooting zone. The leaves are strap-like. The flowers are borne in spherical heads, which bear either male or female flowers.[2] The seeds may accumulate in the soil as dense seed banks, which allow the plants to regenerate during low water periods.[3]

Sparganium is an important component of aquatic and marsh vegetation in temperate to arctic regions. It provides food and cover for wildlife and waterfowl.

The genus name Sparganium was published by Linnaeus in Species Plantarum (1753), with two species recognized: S. erectum, and S. natans.

Sparganium eurycarpum

Perhaps the first mention of Sparganium in the English language was made by William Turner (1562).[4] Turner noted that there was no name for the plants in English, and suggested bede sedge or knop sedge. Further, he noted, "the virtues of Sparganium: The roote is good to be geven wyth wyne agaynste the poyson of serpentes."


The latest monographic study listed 14 species in the world.[5][6]



  1. ^ Kaul, RB 1997. Sparganiaceae. In: Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 12+ vols. New York and Oxford. Vol. 22.
  2. ^ Sparganium research page, UW-Madison Dept. of Botany
  3. ^ Keddy, P.A. 2010. Wetland Ecology: Principles and Conservation (2nd edition). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
  4. ^ Turner, William. 1562. A new herball. republished 1995, GTL Chapman, MN Tweddle, eds. Cambridge U. Press.
  5. ^ Cook and Nicholls (1986) A monographic study of the genus Sparganium. Part 1: Subgenus Xanthosparganium. Botanica Helvetica 96: 213-267
  6. ^ Cook and Nicholls (1987) A monographic study of the genus Sparganium. Part 2: Subgenus Sparganium. Botanica Helvetica 97: 1-44

External links[edit]

Media related to Sparganiaceae at Wikimedia Commons