Juncus usitatus
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Taxon Attribute Profiles
Habit of Juncus usitatus - click to enlarge
Juncus usitatus growing in the Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra (L. Vallee © ANBG)

Juncus usitatus L.A.S.Johnson

Common Names

Common Rush, Pin Rush, Mat Rush


An Australian native, Juncus usitatus is common along the waterways of the Murray-Darling Basin. While it can be a nuisance in poorly drained pastures its fine, arching stems have led to its use in landscaping and wetland rehabilitation. Due to its adaptation to waterlogged soil it can be an early indicator of dryland salinity.

Taxonomy and Ecology


Family: Juncaceae
Genus: Juncus – c. 300 species worldwide with 31 species endemic to Australia and a further 21 species naturalised (Wilson et al., 1993).

Life form

distribution map of Juncus usitatus - click to enlarge
Click to enlarge map

Juncus usitatus is an emergent, densely tufted, rhizomatous perennial with terete culms to approximately 1.2 m tall (Albrecht, 1994; Cunningham et al., 1981; Wilson et al., 1993). See Albrecht (1994) and Wilson et al. (1993) for further descriptive information.


Juncus usitatus is native to Australia. It occurs naturally throughout Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria and has been introduced into South Australia and Western Australia. It is also native to New Zealand and New Caledonia (Albrecht, 1994; Cunningham et al., 1981; Wilson et al., 1993).

In New South Wales it extends inland to near Dubbo and the Murray River Valley. It has also been recorded in the irrigation areas near Warren, Griffith and Hay, but is probably introduced in these regions (Wilson et al., 1993).


Juncus usitatus is commonly found along stream and river banks, irrigation supply channels and other very damp and periodically wet sites, including swampland. It usually occurs close to the water’s edge or in shallow water (Cunningham et al., 1981; New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, 2002; Sainty and Jacobs, 1994; Wilson et al., 1993) in mud, sand and sandy soils (Australian National Herbarium, 2005).

"Status" in community

A common species, Juncus usitatus can be the dominant component of its habitat (Ward, 1999).

Associated species

Juncus usitatus is commonly found in association with other sedges and rushes, grasses and other native and weedy wetland species. It also occurs under Casuarina cunninghamiana, Eucalyptus camaldulensis and other eucalypts (Australian National Herbarium, 2005).

Qualitative and quantitative data – abundance, cover, biomass

While Juncus usitatus is relatively infrequently collected it is a very common species in its habitat. It is abundant along the irrigation channels in the southern areas of western New South Wales (Albrecht, 1994; Cunningham et al., 1981; Wilson et al., 1993). Introduced into South Australia, it has been recorded as common within drainage channels and wetlands associated with Lower Murray reclaimed swamps (Whittle and Philcox, 1996). Benson (2005) lists it as an indicator species for his ‘Couch grassland on river banks and floodplains of inland river systems’ community in New South Wales.

Species – interactions with other biodiversity

Juncus usitatus can provide cover and food for animals, such as frogs (Sainty and Jacobs, 1994; Anon, 2004) and nesting sites for birds (NSW Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources, 2005), and yabbys (Cherax destructor) eat the tender, young stems (Brooks, 1997). It can compete with less desirable and more obstructive plants along the edges of channels (Sainty and Jacobs, 1994).

Physiological traits and adaptations

No specific information relating to physiological traits and adaptations of Juncus usitatus has been located at this time.

Reproduction and Establishment


Juncus usitatus flowers in spring or summer. Old flowers usually remain on the plant all year (Sainty and Jacobs, 1994). Seeds are shed mostly in summer to autumn (Albrecht, 1994).

Juncus usitatus illustration - click to enlarge Juncus usitatus inflorescence - click to enlarge

Juncus usitatus inflorescence and capsule
(David Mackay © Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust)

Juncus usitatus inflorescence
(L. Vallee © ANBG)


Dispersability; establishment and growth

Little is known regarding the dispersal and establishment of Juncus usitatus. Given their small size it is likely that its seeds are dispersed by water and in mud, in keeping with other Juncus species such as J. articulatus. Its rhizomatous nature presumably also allows it to spread through vegetative growth.

Juvenile period

No information relating to the juvenile period of Juncus usitatus has been located at this time.

Hydrology and salinity


Juncus usitatus favours saturated soils and shallow water but does not thrive in deep water (Cunningham et al., 1981; Sainty and Jacobs, 1994).

Salinity tolerance

Juncus usitatus is recorded as being salt-tolerant and can out-compete other species in saline conditions. Increased dryland salinity of low lying areas in the Maitland area of NSW has seen an increase in the abundance of this species (Yeend, 2003). The spread of species adapted to waterlogging of the soil, such as Juncus usitatus, can be an indication of dryland salinity (Upper Lachlan Landcare, 2003).

Flooding regimes

Change in water regimes

Juncus usitatus is drought tolerant according to horticultural suppliers (e.g. see Abulk Wholesale Nursery).

Response to disturbance (non-hydrological)


Juncus usitatus has been recorded as being heavily grazed on the south coast of New South Wales. Apart from reducing the height of the tussocks no further affects are known (Dames and Moore, 1991).


Juncus usitatus is not known to be specifically adversely affected by any weeds at this time. However, weed infestation is a key threat to the ‘Couch grassland on river banks and floodplains of inland river systems’ community identified by Benson (2005) of which Juncus usitatus is an important component. In certain circumstances it may be considered a weed itself (see Conservation status).

Conservation status

Juncus usitatus is not considered threatened despite a reduction in extent in some areas as a result of agricultural, industrial and residential development (Anon., 2003). It is a pasture weed (Auld and Medd, 1987), may obstruct flow in shallow channels, although this is rare (Sainty and Jacobs, 1981), and can become a nuisance in poorly drained irrigation land (Cunningham et al., 1981).

Juncus usitatus in a waste treatment wetland
Juncus usitatus growing in a passive waste water treatment wetland (© Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouse Magazine, Carruthers 2002)

Uses (including ethnobotanical)

Juncus usitatus is used in wetland rehabilitation (Lake Macquarie City Council, 2004) and the construction of artificial wetlands for wastewater treatment (Carruthers, 2002; Office of National Tourism). It is also used in landscaping because of its fine, arching stems and usefulness for creek and pond banks (Port of Brisbane Corporation, 2003; Australian Plants Society Central Coast Group, 2005).

Benson (2005) suggests that the ‘Couch grassland on river banks and floodplains of inland river systems community’, of which Juncus usitatus is an important component, may act as a successional stage stabilizing sandbars allowing for colonisation by trees. As suggested earlier Juncus usitatus may also be useful as an indicator species for dryland salinity (see Salinity tolerance).


Juncus usitatus is a common component of wetland and river bank flora in the Murray-Darling Basin, particularly south-western New South Wales and South Australia. While it has reduced in extent in some areas as a result of development there is currently no evidence that it is threatened and in localized areas it can become a nuisance. Its use for wetland rehabilitation and ability to out-compete less desirable species suggests it could be a good species for stabilisation of banks of waterways. Due to its tolerance of saline conditions and adaptation to water logged soil Juncus usitatus has the potential to be an early indicator species for dryland salinity.


Abulk Wholesale Nursery (2005) Juncus usitatus Available at: http://www.abulk.com.au/buy/index.html?target=Ornamental_Native_GrassesJuncus_usitatus.html at [Accessed: February 2005].

Albrecht, D.E. (1994) Juncus. In Walsh, N.G. and Entwisle, T.J. (eds) Flora of Victoria Vol. 2: Ferns and Allied Plants, Conifers and Monocotyledons. Inkata Press, Melbourne, p. 210.

Anon (2003) Worksheet 3.4: Wetland Flora Species. In A Sense of Place in Maitland: Resource Kit for Schools, State of New South Wales.

Anon (2004) Frogs on the Farm, WWF Frogs! Program, WWF Australia and the Rio Tinto Group. Available at: http://esvc000736.wic009u.server-web.com/FrogsonFarms.pdf [Accessed: February 2005].

Auld, B.A. and Medd, R.W. (1987) Weeds: an illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia. Inkata Press, Melbourne, p 30.

Australian National Herbarium, Canberra. (2005). Australian National Herbarium Specimen Information Register. Available at: http://www.anbg.gov.au/cgi-bin/anhsir [Accessed: January 2005].

Australian Plants Society Central Coast Group (2005) Fact Sheet 18: Australian Grasses, Sedges and Rushes. Available at: http://www.australianplants.org/fsreight.htm [Accessed February 2005].

Benson, J. (2005) NSW Vegetation Classification: IBRA BioRegions - Riverina

Brooks, J. in Markwort, K. (ed) (1997) Yabby study throws light on billabongs, Watershed, Issue No. 04 - June 1997, CRC for Freshwater Ecology (CRCFE), Canberra, p. 7. Available at http://enterprise.canberra.edu.au/Publications.nsf/. [Accessed February 2005].

Carruthers, S. (2002) Passive Wetland System for Intensive Horticulture, Practical Hydroponics and Greenhouses, 62. Available at http://www.hydroponics.com.au/back_issues/issue62.html [Accessed February 2005].

Cunningham, G.M., Mulham, W.E., Milthorpe, P.E. and Leigh, J.H. (1981) Plants of Western New South Wales. Soil Conservation Service of New South Wales. p. 180.

Dames and Moore (1991) Yallah Local Environment Study. In Yallah – local area information. Available at http://www.wollongong.nsw.gov.au/library/localinfo/yallah/ [Accessed February 2005]

Lake Macquarie City Council (2004) Foreshore Stabilisation and Rehabilitation Guidelines. Available at http://www.lakemac.com.au/ourcity/lep2004/guide/C_Foreshore.pdf. [Accessed February 2005].

New South Wales Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources (2005) Caring for our Natural Resources: The Native Plants of NSW Wetlands – Emergent Plants. Available at: http://www.dlwc.nsw.gov.au/care/wetlands/facts/paa/plants/emergent.html [Accessed: February 2005].

New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (2002) Interpretation Guidelines for the Native Vegetation Maps of the Cumberland Plain, Western Sydney, Final Edition, NSW NPWS, Hurstville, p 32.

Port of Brisbane Corporation (2003) Landscaping Guidelines, Port of Brisbane Corporation Development Guidelines. Port of Brisbane Corporation, Queensland. Available at: http://www.portbris.com.au/asp/portdev/planning_documents [Accessed February 2005].

Sainty, G.R. and Jacobs, S.W.L. (1981) Waterplants of New South Wales. Water Resources Commission New South Wales, Sydney

Sainty, G.R. and Jacobs, S.W.L. (1994) Waterplants in Australia: a field guide (3 rd ed.), Sainty and Associates, Darlinghurst, p. 156.

Upper Lachlan Landcare (2003) Fact sheet: Introduction to Dryland Salinity, Upper Lachlan Catchment Coordinating Committee. Available at: http://www.ulccc.org.au/drysalinity.htm [Accessed February 2005].

Ward, W.T. (1999) Soil and landscapes near Narrabri and Edgeroi, NSW, with data analysis using fuzzy k-means. CSIRO Land and Water Technical Report 22/99, CSIRO Australia

Whittle, J. and Philcox, M. (1996) Constructed Wetlands for Water Quality Control for the Lower Murray Reclaimed Swamps. Primary Industries, South Australia, p 59.

Wilson , K.L. Johnson, L.A.S. and Bankoff, P. (1993) Juncus. In G.J. Harden (ed) Flora of New South Wales. Vol. 4. University of NSW Press, Sydney, p. 279.

Office of National Tourism. Twinshare: Tourist accommodation and the environment. Available at http://twinshare.crctourism.com.au/responsible_waste_water_treatment.htm [Accessed February 2005]

Yeend, K. (2003) Case Study 3.2: Flora and Fauna of Maitland’s Wetlands. In A Sense of Place in Maitland: Resource Kit for Schools, State of New South Wales. Available at: http://www.hcmt.org.au/sense_of_place/Chapter_3.pdf [Accessed at: February 2005].


Updated 11 July, 2006