Luzula multiflora (Common Woodrush)

Plant Info
Also known as: Many-flowered Woodrush, Heath Woodrush
Genus:Luzula
Family:Juncaceae (Rush)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry to moist, often disturbed soil; open woods, swamps, fens, meadows, ditches
Fruiting season:May - July
Plant height:6 to 15 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 6-petals Cluster type: spike

[photo of individual cluster] 3 to 16 spikes at the tip of the stem, each with 8 to 16 flowers. The spikes are on erect to ascending stalks of varying lengths from ½ to 2 inches long, with 1 or 2 nearly stalkless. Stalks are green and hairless. At the base of the inflorescence (group of clusters) is a pair of erect, leaf-like bracts, one of which is about as long as or a little longer than the inflorescence.

[photo of flowers] Flowers are about ¼ inch across, have 6 tepals (petals and similar sepals) all similar in size and shape, lance to narrowly triangular, tapering to a pointed tip, initially green turning yellowish to dark brown with whitish edging. In the center is a single style with 3 feathery stigmas and 6 pale yellow-tipped stamens about as long as the style. At the base of a flower is a pair of scale-like bracts half or less as long as the tepals.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of stem leaf] Leaves are grass-like, basal and alternate, 1½ to 5 inches long, up to ¼ inch wide, pointed at the tip and stalkless. Leaves are toothless but variably edged in long, white hairs. Stem leaves number 2 or 3, are erect, sheath the stem, widely spaced and barely overlapping. Stems are smooth, erect, unbranched, single or multiple from the base.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a 3-lobed, oval to round capsule 2.2 to 2.6 mm long, about as along as or slightly shorter than the tepals and ripening to brown, each with 3 seeds, up to 1.5 mm long, oval-elliptic with a whitish, curved appendage at the tip.

Notes:

The native status of Common Woodrush is under some debate. While Flora of North America (and the DNR) list it as introduced, the more common opinion is it is a circumpolar species native here and in parts of Europe and Asia. We're siding with the majority until further research makes a more definitive determination. It's a species of open woodlands and grassy areas, often in disturbed soils, and blooming in spring to early summer. Common Woodrush is fairly easy to ID with its leaves fringed with long, white hairs (common for Luzula species) and the terminal, spike clusters of 6-parted flowers on variable length stalks, replaced by round capsules starting in late spring. Of the other Luzula species in Minnesota, Hairy Woodrush (Luzula acuminata) and Small-flowered Woodrush (Luzula parviflora) have single flowers at stalk tips, and Oak-forest Woodrush (Luzula luzuloides), an uncommon introduction, has branching clusters. There are 6 recognized subspecies of L. multiflora, distinguished by the color and shape of the tepals and capsules, spacing of the stem leaves, length of cluster bracts, number of flowers in a cluster and other variable characteristics; subsp. multiflora, found in Minnesota, has 2 or 3 widely spaced leaves that barely overlap if at all, tepals yellowish to dark brown and all the same size and shape, and a leafy bract at the top of the stem that is not much longer than the inflorescence.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.

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