Ecology: Butomus umbellatus grows in lakes, riparian zones, water courses, wetlands, and marshes. It can tolerate water as deep or deeper 2 meters, where cattail is normally found, and can extend to the deepest range of native emergent marsh species (except possibly for hard-stem bulrush and wild rice). Once established in a marsh, populations tend to increase and persist indefinitely. Water level fluctuations may promote the spread of B. umbellatus, allowing populations to expand when water levels are low and the soil surface is exposed and warmed (Hroudová et al. 1996). However, severe or long-lasting decreases in water level could result in the reduction of B. umbellatus populations (e.g., Hudon 2004). It is intolerant of salt or brackish water.
Butomus umbellatus is a perennial plant. It is in flower from July to September, and the seeds ripen from August to September (in North America). The scented flowers are hermaphroditic and are pollinated by bees, flies, and lepidopterans. Although Canadian populations of B. umbellatus appeared to be incapable of autonomous seed production (without external pollination assistance), plants were self compatible and produced more seed when self-pollinated (Eckert et al. 2000).
Flowering rush can be fertile (both spread by sexual reproduction and seeds or by vegetative means) or sterile (can only reproduce by vegetative means (Lui et al. 2005, Parkinson et al. 2010). Diploid populations of B. umbellatus can reproduce sexually via seed production and clonally via the branching and fragmentation of rhizomes and the production of small bulbils on both the rhizomes and inflorescences (Lui et al. 2005). Most B. umbellatus populations in the Great Lakes are diploid and capable of producing abundant viable seed, although the major method of reproduction appears to be clonal (Lui et al. 2005). Sterile triploid populations of B. umbellatus also exist in the Great Lakes region. North American triploid populations rarely flower and also have a limited ability to multiply and disperse via clonal reproduction, although they may have a greater ecological tolerance than diploid populations as a result of polyploidy or of greater investment in vegetative growth (Lui et al. 2005). Triploid populations also appear to be spread more commonly through the horticulture trade. Lui et al. (2005) suggested that these different reproductive strategies are indications of two different forms of B. umbellatus in North America with different life histories and invasion histories.
Diploid and triploid populations of B. umbellatus exist throughout its global range, although reproductive traits and strategies may differ by region (e.g., North American vs. European populations) (Hroudová and Zákravský 1993, Lui et al. 2005). Relative to native European populations, Brown and Eckert (2005) found that nonindigenous North American diploid populations invested much more biomass in reproduction and were more likely to produce both inflorescences and clonal bulbils. Post-establishment survival was also over twice as high for North American populations as it was for European populations (Brown and Eckert 2005).
Flowering rush has a very wide range of hardiness (zones 3-10) which makes it capable of being widely invasive in the United States (IPANE 2001).
References: (click for full references)
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This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.