Luzula parviflora (Small-flowered Woodrush)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Juncaceae (Rush)
Life cycle:perennial, short-lived perennial
  • State Threatened
Habitat:part shade, shade; average to moist soil; hardwood or mixed forest, conifer swamps
Fruiting season:June - July
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: none NCNE: FAC
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: panicle

[photo of cluster] Loose branching clusters at the tip of the stem, the branches and stalks arching to drooping and flowers single at branch tips. 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, pale brown to brown. In the center is a single style with 3 feathery stigmas and 6 pale yellow-tipped stamens. At the base of a flower is a pair of scale-like bracts less than half as long as the tepals. At the base of the lowest cluster is a pair of leaf-like bracts, the largest up to 2 inches long.

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

[photo of stem leaves] Leaves are grass-like, basal and alternate, blue-green to green, the basal leaves to 8 inches long, up to ½ inch wide, pointed at the tip, stalkless and somewhat reddish at the base. Leaves are toothless and mostly hairless. Stem leaves number 3 to 5, are erect, 3 to 5 inches long and somewhat narrower than the basal leaves.

[photo of stem leaf sheath] Stem leaves sheath the stem, typically with a few long, white hairs at the tip of the sheath. Stems are smooth, erect, unbranched, single but with short, horizontal stems (stolons), forming loose clumps and colonies.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a weakly 3-sided, yellowish to blackish brown, oval capsule about 2 mm long, as along as or slightly longer than the tepals, each with 3 reddish-brown seeds, 1 to 1.5 mm long, egg-shaped with or without a whitish, curved appendage at the tip.


Small-flowered Woodrush is a rare species in Minnesota. In the western US it is commonly found in alpine meadows and tundra, but in Minnesota it is mostly found in the cool forested areas near the shore of Lake Superior. According to the DNR, fewer than 25 populations, all small, have been found after extensive surveys of the Arrowhead region, even though there appears to be abundant suitable habitat. While there is risk from timber management and development, the biology of the species is not well understood and is the likely reason for the limited populations in the state. It was listed as a Special Concern species in 1996 and elevated to Threatened in 2013. Small-flowered Woodrush is fairly easy to ID with its drooping, branched flower clusters with flowers single at the branch tips, and erect, grass-like leaves that sheath the stem, usually with a few long, white hairs at the tip of the sheath. Of the other Luzula species in Minnesota, Common Woodrush (Luzula multiflora) and Oak-forest Woodrush (Luzula luzuloides) have clusters of multiple flowers at the tip of each stalk. Hairy Woodrush (Luzula acuminata) also has single flowers, but is a much smaller plant and the cluster is not branched.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook County.


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