Juncus acutus L. ssp. leopoldii (Parl.) Snog.
=Juncus acutus var. sphaerocarpus
Juncaceae (Rush Family)
Perennial, in large tufts, 6-12 dm. high, with stout, rigid, pungent
stems; lvs. all basal, terete, nearly as long as stems, the sheaths inflated,
brownish; auricles (ear shaped appendages) from scarcely developed to several
mm. high, cartilaginous; lowest bract of infl. foliose, 5-15 cm. long, stout,
spinescent; infl. paniculate, with unequal branches, 5-20 cm. long; fls. 2-4 in
small clusters; perianth-segms., pale brown, lanceolate, 2-4 mm. long, shining,
indurate; caps subglobose, ca. 5 mm. long; seeds finely reticulate, obovoid.
Moist saline places; Coastal Salt Marsh, San Louis Obispo Co. to L.
Calif.; Alkaline Sink, Colo. Desert; Ariz.
Below 300 m. May-June.
Latin name for rush, perhaps from jungere,
to bind, the stems used for binding. (Munz,
Flora So. Calif. 1401).
Latin, acutus, sharp, pointed. (Jaeger
Common throughout the study area. Photographed
at North Star Beach, Back Bay Dr. and 23rd Street. (my comments).
Used by the Indians for basked warps and wefts (foundations and
wrapping), especially in southern California.
(Heizer & Elsasser 135).
One of the native halophytes listed by Zedler as occurring in Upper
Newport Bay. (Zedler 16).
For a complete list of these halophytes and others that occur in Upper
Newport Bay, see Spartina foliosa. (my comment). Distributional changes of
species with elevation can be described at the small-scale or individual-marsh
level. Because most of the
halophytes rely on vegetative reproduction (rather than seedling establishment)
for area spread, discrete patches and boundaries can be seen in the marsh.
Spike rush, Juncus acutus, may have formed a conspicuous band around the upper
marsh of pre-1900 wetlands, but only remnant populations are now found in
southern California. Its clump of
long, sharp, stiff leaves and tall, dark, flowering stalks are unmistakable
features of the species. Its
distribution may correspond with lower soil salinities, though ecological
studies are lacking. (Zedler 30-33)
A genus of over 200 spp., mostly temperate.
Often growing in meadows and swales mixed with grasses and sedges and of
some economic importance for hay and pasture.
(Munz, Flora So. Calif.
Chumash Indians, who lived in the area that is now Santa Barbara, used four
species of Juncus in basket making. This
was virtually the only plant used for this purpose and the baskets served in
numerous vital roles in daily life, as well as being a highly developed art
form. (Timbrook, J. "Chumash
Ethnobotany: A Preliminary Report". Journal
of Ethnobiology, December 1984, 141-169).
The Cahuilla Indians who inhabited the Colorado Desert, the San Jacinto
and San Bernardino Mountains, used several species of Juncus
to make baskets. A
description of how J. lesuerii was
used is as follows: The scape and leaves are two to four feet high, or more,
stout and pungent. A supply of these tough scapes is gathered by the basket maker and cut off
at a suitable length. She then takes a rush by one end and with her teeth splits
it into three equal portions. Each
scape thus furnishes three withes. The
reed is, near its base, of a deep red, lightening in color upwards, passing
through several shades of light brown, and ending at the top in a brownish
yellow. Thus this bulrush, in its
natural state, furnishes a variety of colors. The materials were also dyed black. (Bean & Saubel 80).
One term in the literature that has sometimes been considered synonymous
with Juncus is the Indian word maiswat.
The maiswat plant was used to
make the ceremonial bundle. If rush
was ever used for this purpose, the usage was probably recent, since the
Cahuilla creation myth suggests maiswat
was a type of seaweed. In the
Cahuilla cosmogony, maiswat was first
utilized for making an effigy of the creator-god Mukat
for ceremonies that followed his death. According
to Lucille Hooper (interviewed in 1920). "When
they were ready to hold the fiesta (in memory of Mukat),
Coyote told them he knew what to make effigies of, and offered to go to the end
of the world to get it. Misvut (a seaweed) is what he got.
It grew far under the water. It
had probably been made in the beginning for this purpose."
(Bean and Saubel 80).
The scapes of Juncus acutus do not have the varied colors described above for J.
lesuerii and are a uniform white inside from end to end.
Hickman, Ed. 1159; Munz, Calif.
Flora 1405; Munz, Flora So. Calif.
910; Roberts 43.
Dec 1 82 # 26A,28A; April-May 84 # 2; Sept 97 # 8A.
Identity: by R. De Ruff.
First Found: December 1982.
Computer Ref: Plant Data 64.
Have plant specimen.
Last edit 6/9/04.