"Sedges have edges." The rule to remember in identifying members of Cyperaceae - and although those edges are sometime pretty subtle, it holds true for our native species.
They all grow in wet areas, if not right in creeks and ponds, which is another clue. Stems are usually solid and three-angled (those edges - you may have to slice it toward the base to really see it). The leaves, when present, are slender but with a substantial stem clasping basal sheath with fused edges.
The flowers (or florets in this case) are clustered in spikelets, with bracts at each floret as well as the spikelet itself. There is usually 3 stamens, and 2 to 4 feathery stigmas on the pistil.
Flowers: Multiple florets with pistils and stamens in a single cluster of more than 5 brownish-red spikelets; toward top of stem - upper bract (continuation of stem) seldom longer than spikelet cluster.
Leaves: About 3mm wide, lengthy and joined to clasp at base of stem.
Location: Fresh and saltwater habitats; San Pedro Creek.
Status: Common - Native.
Further description & Comment: Up to more than 2 m (6 ft) tall, growing in large colonies from spreading underground stems.
The upright stems appear to be cylindrical, but are three-angled with rounded edges - you'll need to examine them closely to see this.
California Bulrush has an extensive historical record in the creeks around Montara Mountain, but almost all of the native stands have been eliminated for farming or housing. Current creek restoration projects are bolstering the remaining small population in San Pedro Creek and re-introducing the species to its former habitats.
Flowers: Multiple florets with pistils and stamens in an "exploded" cluster of more than 5 brownish spikelets on long stems at top of main stem.
Leaves: 2 to 3 per spikelet stem, up to 10 mm wide, with a sharply delineated center rib crease - edges tightly serrated and cutting.
Location: Freshwater habitats - San Pedro Creek.
Status: Common - Native.
Further description & Comment: Up to 1.5 m tall; stems three angled with rounded edges. Growing in large colonies from common underground (and under water) stems.
Panicled Bulrush is found further inland than California Bulrush; as it prefers freshwater habitats only, it will be found above the tidal intrusion zone of creeks.
The leaves are razor-sharp, and it has been mistaken for the invasive Pampas Grass (Cortaderia jubata) when not in flower. Bulrush will always be growing in or right next to water and has a series of stems coming up from underground stems- Pampas doesn't like to get its feet wet and grows from a central ball root system.
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