Species Profile

Bashful Bulrush

Scientific Name: Trichophorum planifolium
Other/Previous Names: Few-flowered Club-rush,Scirpus verecundus
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
COSEWIC Range: Ontario
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2000
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A1ac; B1+2be; C1+2a; D1
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: More than 50% decline over the past decade of the few remaining populations due to habitat destruction and alteration within its two remaining areas of occurrence.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in April 1986. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in May 2000.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Bashful Bulrush Photo 2



The Bashful Bulrush (sometimes called the Few-flowered Club-rush) is an herbaceous perennial sedge that grows from short rhizomes and forms small clumps. It has short (10 to 40 cm), erect, flat, grass-like leaves and each clump produces several to several dozen 10 to 20 cm high flowering spikes which are triangular in cross-section (a characteristic of sedges). Each spike consists of several small, petal-less flowers that are rather inconspicuous.


Distribution and Population

The Bashful Bulrush has a rather limited range in northeastern North America, most of it in the United States. In Canada, it is at the northern extremity of its range and occurs only in southwestern Ontario. It is confined to the western Lake Ontario shoreline which has one of the warmest climates and longest growing seasons in the province. It was known to occur in seven populations in two areas (Toronto and Hamilton). Three of these populations could not be found in 1999, and the species has declined by at least 50% in three others. The total Canadian population was assumed to be less than 20 clumps at that time, however fieldwork conducted in 2000 resulted in hundreds of additional clumps being located. The Canadian population is now thought to number several hundred to a thousand clumps, confined almost entirely to the Royal Botanicals Gardens nature sanctuaries.



The Bashful Bulrush grows in open-canopied deciduous and mixed forests that have few shrubs in the understory. Because it requires warmth and good drainage, it tends to occur on semi-open to open, steep slopes that face south or southwest. It is usually found in areas where there are occasional natural disturbances.



A southern species, Bashful Bulrush is able to grow only in the warmest parts of Ontario. In spring, each clump produces many delicate flowering spikes. The flowers are wind pollinated, and the seeds are dispersed in late July to early August. The leaves and stems become matted to the forest floor by late July. Some leaves survive through the winter and form the base of the plant in the spring.



Bashful Bulrush occurs in the warmest and most highly urbanized areas of Ontario. The species may be sensitive to disturbance levels, requiring moderate disturbances to maintain appropriate habitat conditions, while being negatively impacted by severe human disturbance. It is also thought that competition from other species may be detrimental to the bulrush. Currently, the species is threatened by erosion-control measures to stabilize the slopes where it is found, trampling by animals (one site occurs near a fox den entrance), pedestrians, joggers and cyclists, and shading by trees and shrubs.



Federal Protection

The Bashful Bulrush is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Bashful Bulrush is protected by the Ontario Endangered Species Act in specific locations. Under this Act, it is prohibited to kill, harm, harass, or collect this species, or to destroy its habitat.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Few-flowered Club-rush/Bashful Bulrush in Canada (Trichophorum planifolium (Sprengel) Palla)
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

Recovery Team for Few-flowered Club-rush

  • Donald Kirk - Chair/Contact - Government of Ontario
    Phone: 519-826-4925  Send Email


Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date The Bashful Bulrush recovery team aims to ensure the long-term survival of Canadian populations. The team recognizes that an incomplete understanding of the plant’s ecology and of the threats it faces currently hampers recovery and has identified knowledge gaps that need to be addressed for effective recovery planning to take place. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Researchers are working to ascertain what is limiting Bashful Bulrush populations in Ontario. The species’ habitat requirements have been studied since 2000. Ecological Land Classification surveys conducted for all populations in Cootes Paradise Nature Sanctuary (managed by Royal Botanical Gardens) assessed whether all available habitats are occupied; and results have shown that this is not the case. Furthermore, Bashful Bulrush does not occur in the adjacent Hendrie Valley, in spite of the availability of suitable habitat. These results indicate that Bashful Bulrush is limited by something other than availability of suitable habitat. Researchers are conducting demographic studies to determine at which life stage(s) the plant is being limited; for example, researchers will assess seed production, seed dispersal, germination rate, mortality of seedlings and adult mortality. Potential threats to Bashful Bulrush that are being examined include human disturbance, predators/pathogens, competition (including non-native species) and potential loss of genetic variability. The Royal Botanical Gardens is investigating the use of prescribed burns, which may benefit the species. Summary of Recovery Activities Seeds have been collected from Cootes Paradise populations to create a garden population as a back-up and to maintain a gene bank for the species. Captive propagation techniques have been successfully developed. Garden populations will not be used for population augmentation or reintroduction unless researchers determine that such action is advisable.


PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

4 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Update Status Report on the Bashful Bulrush (Trichophorum planifolium) in Canada (2000-05-31)

    Bashful Bulrush (Trichophorum planifolium = Scirpus verecundus) is a member of the sedge family. It forms small clumps of short, erect, grass-like leaves. In the spring, each clump produces from several to several dozen delicate flowering stalks (culms) that are triangular in cross-section and generally only 10-20 cm high. A small solitary spike develops at the end of each culm. The spike consists of several petal-less flowers, each of which is partly enclosed by an awn-tipped bract. Bashful Bulrush generally occurs as loosely-associated patches of from a few to several hundred clumps. Later in the season, the leaves and culms tend to fall over and become matted on the forest floor.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Few-flowered Club-rush/Bashful Bulrush in Canada (Trichophorum planifolium (Sprengel) Palla) (2007-06-20)

    The Few-flowered Club-rush/Bashful bulrush is under the management jurisdiction of the Ontario provincial government. The Species at Risk Act (SARA, Section 37) requires the competent Minister to prepare a recovery strategy for all listed extirpated, endangered or threatened species. SARA Section 44(1) allows the Minister to adopt an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content and process (Sections 39-41). The Few-flowered Club-rush/Bashful bulrush was listed as Endangered under SARA in June 2003. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources led the development of this recovery strategy for the species in cooperation with the Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario Region, Environment Canada. All responsible jurisdictions reviewed and acknowledged receipt of the strategy. This recovery strategy was developed in consultation with the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Rouge Park, on behalf of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Rouge National Urban Park of Canada (2021-10-07)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Rouge National Urban Park of Canada applies to all federally owned lands and waters managed by Parks Canada in Rouge National Urban Park (RNUP), including Bead Hill National Historic Site. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the province of Ontario, the Rouge National Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle, and environmental non-government organizations as per section 48(1) of SARA. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur at this site. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at RNUP. In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the 60-day public comment period on the proposed Multi-species Action Plan for Rouge National Urban Park of Canada has been extended to 90 days to provide sufficient time for feedback.

Residence Description

  • Residence Rationale - Bashful Bulrush/Few Flowered Clubrush (2007-01-02)

    Individual Bashful Bulrush / Few Flowered Clubrush plants do not appear to use a dwelling place similar to a nest or den, and therefore do not qualify for having a residence. There would be no additional legal protection not already afforded by protection of the individual and its critical habitat.
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