Nature on our doorsteps - Bulrushes – the wetland wonder

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

Bulrushes and Common Reeds are two of the main wetland plants that grow around the ponds and lakes in our public parks.

Bulrush is a tall elegant plant with strong green leaves that are shaped like a very long sword.

Bulrush and Common Reed grace the edges of ponds and lakes compressor

Bulrushes and Common Reeds grace the edges of ponds and lakes

While its tiny flowers are not very distinctive, its brown seed head certainly is.

This is the sausage-shaped structures you can still see now on the tops of long stalks amongst the withered leaves at the water’s edge.

In the past, the fresh green leaves of Bulrush were used to weave floor mats, chair seats and baskets.

Its spongy brown seed heads were also dipped in animal fat or oils and set alight as torches.

Different parts of the plant also provided food to previous generations.

Bulrushs spindle shaped seedheads release their wispy seeds to the wind compressor

Bulrush’s spindle-shaped seedheads release their wispy seeds to the wind

Young shoots were gathered as spring greens and, throughout the year, its roots were cooked for their high starch content.

While reed beds also provide important shelter for water birds and insects, Bulrushes have another environmental benefit.

Their roots can absorb harmful bacteria and chemical pollutants, making wetlands a very important habitat to help improve water quality and biodiversity.

In Irish, Bulrush is called ‘Coigeal na mban sí’ which translates as ‘spindle of the banshee’, reflecting the brown cylindrical shape of the plant’s seedhead.

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