Baltic rush

Juncus balticus

Common Name: Baltic rush; Straight-line rush

  • Stems grow 16-32 inches and usually grow in a straight line.
  • Flowers are small and do not stand out. They consist of dark brown sepals and petals.
  • Flowers in early summer.

Native or Invasive: Native perennial

Characteristics: Stick-like plants with many culms (stems) growing in a straight line in damp sand with lateral (sticking out of the side of the stem) bursts of tiny, modest flowers. The stems reach between 16 and 32 inches high and are somewhat striated (with several low lines or ridges). The stems are evenly spaced and smooth and grow out of rhizomes in a straight line. The straight-line growing behavior is very helpful in identifying this plant that can be commonly confused with other rushes. It is especially abundant along the shores of the Great Lakes and is found south to Pennslyvania and Missouri. It is circumboreal, meaning it is found in the northern regions of the world.

Habitat: Calcareous (alkaline) shores and in damp areas of dunes and swales, often in very wet areas.

Fun Fact: The Baltic rush is an important colonizer of moist shores. It captures grains of sand and gravel and makes a stable base that other plants can then use to colonize their seedlings.

Ethnobotanical Uses: The culms have been made into baskets and mats — children especially made them into toy baskets. The tops were once eaten like candy. The slim roots and stems were used for decorations on leather and to string clamshell beads.

Adapted from Guide to Great Lakes Coastal Plants, by Ellen Elliott Weatherbee, University of Michigan Press.