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Sparganium americanum (American bur-reed)
Cressler, Alan

Sparganium americanum

Sparganium americanum Nutt.

American Bur-reed

Sparganiaceae (Bur-reed Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N), SPM (N)

An erect, grass-like, aquatic plant with zig-zag stalks bearing ball-like heads of tiny green flowers.

The Bur-reeds represent an important group of emergent plants that are partly in and partly out of the water; they frequently form dense stands along the edges of shallow lakes and ponds. The seeds are eaten by waterfowl and marsh birds, and muskrats feed on the entire plant. The Great Bur-reed (S. eurycarpum), which reaches a height of 7 feet (2.1 m), has two stigmas, not one as in the rest of the group; it is widely distributed. Floating Bur-reed (S. fluctuans) has a floating stem and floating ribbon-like leaves; it is found in cold ponds and lakes across Canada and New England west to Minnesota.


From the Image Gallery

4 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Achene , Drupe
Size Notes: Up to about 3 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Fruit: Green to brown achene-like drupes (often called achenes).

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow , Green
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: MB , NB , NL , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: Ontario east to Newfoundland, south to Florida, west to Texas, and north to Kansas, Iowa and Minnesota.
Native Habitat: Shallow water, muddy shores.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Aquatic: yes
Soil Description: Clay, Loam, Sand


Use Wildlife: Birds, Other Showy Insects
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Research Literature

Reslit 255 - Allelopathy in threesquare burreed (Sparganium americanum) and American eelgrass (Vallisneria americana) (1988) T. S. Cheng and D. N. Riemer
Reslit 659 - Denitrification in constructed wetlands used for treatment of swine wastewater (2003) P. G. Hunt, T. A. Matheny and A. A. Szogi
Reslit 660 - Constructed wetlands for treatment of swine wastewater from an anaerobic lagoon (2002) P. G. Hunt, A. A. Szogi, E. J. Humenik, J. M. Rice...
Reslit 767 - Organic matter retention by macrophyte beds in 2 southeastern USA, low-gradient, headwater streams (2000) P. Koetsier and J. V. McArthur
Reslit 958 - Ability of Four Emergent Macrophytes to Remediate Permethrin in Mesocosm Experiments (2009) M. T. Moore, R. Kroger, C. M. Cooper and S. Smith
Reslit 1328 - Metal concentrations in aquatic macrophytes as influenced by soil and acidification (1998) D. W. Sparling and T. P. Lowe
Reslit 1375 - Nitrogen distribution in soils of constructed wetlands treating lagoon wastewater (2003) A. A. Szogi, P. G. Hunt and F. J. Humenik

This information was provided by the Florida WIldflower Foundation.
Search More Titles in Research Literature

Additional resources

USDA: Find Sparganium americanum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Sparganium americanum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Sparganium americanum


Record Modified: 2023-05-23
Research By: TWC Staff

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