The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Rush (plant)

Edition of 1879. See also Juncaceae on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

RUSH (written by the old authors rish, resh, and rashes, probably from the A. S. risc), the common name for species of juncus, but used in combination, as bog rush and scouring rush, for plants of other genera. Juncus (Lat. jungere, to join, the stems having been used for tying) is the typical genus of a small family of endogenous plants, the juncaceæ, which, while they have the glumaceous (husk-like) flowers and general appearance of the sedges and grasses, are closely related to the lily family, the structure of the flowers, though greenish and glume-like, being much like that of a minute lily. Dr. George Engelmann, in his monograph of the genus juncus (St. Louis academy of sciences, 1868), finds about 50 species in all North America, of which 17 occur also in other parts of the world; four species are found all over the country, and five others everywhere east of the Mississippi; others are very local, especially the maritime and arctic species. The rushes are mostly perennials, growing in water or in wet soil, with pithy or hollow, rarely branching stems, which in some are without leaves, in others with leaves flat and grass-like, while a number have cylindrical leaves, marked by cross partitions. The flowers are in panicles, which are terminal, or in some appear lateral, as the involucral sheath continues beyond the panicle like a prolongation of the stem; the flowers, arranged on the branches of the panicle singly or in little clusters, are from one to three lines long, greenish or brownish, the six-parted perianth with three outer and three inner divisions; stamens six, sometimes reduced to three; pistil with three styles, the many-seeded pod one- or three-celled. Some species are only 1 to 3 in. high, and the larger ones reach as high as 4 ft. Though interesting plants to botanists, the rushes are of little economical importance. The sea and sharp rush (J. maritimus and J. acutus) of Europe grow in the maritime sands, and are sometimes planted in order that their roots may retain the earth of embankments in place; the common or soft rush (J. effusus) is disposed to spread and be a weed in wet pastures, and is troublesome in southern rice fields; the toad rush (J. bufonius), the only annual species in the eastern states, is very common along roadsides and on the edges of footpaths, it seeming to flourish best where it is trodden upon. The most important species is that popularly called black grass, J. Gerardi (given in some works as J. bulbosus, which is a European species not yet found in this country), abundant in salt marshes the whole length of the Atlantic coast, where it is conspicuous by the dark brown color of its flowers; when cut early it makes a hay that is much relished by animals, and salt-marsh hay is regarded as valuable in proportion to the amount of this it contains.—

AmCyc Rush - Common or Soft Rush.jpg

Common or Soft Rush (Juncus effusus).

Formerly rushes were used as a substitute for carpets; the floors of public buildings and of the houses of the wealthy were strewn with them, a practice which was continued as late as the 16th century. The Japanese use the common rush for making mats, which serve for carpets and for beds; light mats of the same material and covered with transparent paper are used as window curtains. The use of rushes and flags for bottoming chairs was formerly common, and the material serves for weaving small baskets; the street flower venders sometimes offer their wares arranged in neat baskets made from green rushes. The Chinese use the pith of some species for candle wicks, and the rush lights formerly in use by the poor classes in England were made of the pith of the common rush, peeled in such a manner as to leave a narrow strip of the rind on each side as a support.—Bulrush is one of the sedges (scirpus lacustris); scouring rushes are equisetums. (See Horsetail.)