Pigmy Rush

In the early days of summer, look out for diminutive, pink-flushed Pigmy Rush along the ancient trackways of The Lizard.

Photo: Amanda Scott

Scientific name: Juncus pygmaeus

Other common names: Pygmy Rush (variant spelling)

Cornish name: The general word for rush is bronnen

Conservation status: Endangered in the UK.

What to look for:

Family: Juncaceae (Rushes)
Flowers, leaves and stem: Tufted annual with florets in terminal clusters on the branching stems. Pink- to purple-flushed in colour.
Height: 2 to 8 cm.
Where: In the UK, only on The Lizard, especially on ancient trackways.
When: May to June
Habit: Upright
Similar to: Toad Rush

In their book Wild Flowers of The Lizard, Robin Bates and Bill Scolding talk about The Puddle Gang. They are referring to a set of wild plants that love the ancient trackways and puddles of The Lizard – wet in autumn and winter, but drying out by summer. This is because the bare soil allows these delicate annuals to avoid competition with more vigorous plants. Yellow Centaury and Three-lobed Crowfoot belong to the gang, but one of the rarest is Pigmy Rush. Although widespread in Europe, here in the UK you will in fact only find it on The Lizard.

It might be small of stature, but Pigmy Rush is well worth looking out for in the days of late spring and early summer. If you’re prepared to get down on hands and knees with a hand lens, then you will be rewarded by a close-up of its pinky-purple flush (gained as the summer progresses into June), threadlike leaves, and the delicacy of its tiny florets. One of the best places to look for it is at Windmill Farm.

As you might expect for a plant that needs bare soil in order to take a hold, grazing of taller, more dominant vegetation helps. Conservationists and land managers on The Lizard have been doing a great deal to help this elusive little plant.

Did you know…?

…Pigmy Rush is an annual plant, whereas most other members of the rush family are perennials.

More information and references:

Bates, R. and Scolding, B., 2002. Wild Flowers of The Lizard. Cornwall County Council, Cornwall.

Rose, F., 1989. Colour Identification Guide to the Grasses, Sedges, Rushes and Ferns of the British Isles and North-western Europe. Viking, London.

Published: December 2017
Author: Amanda Scott
Photos: Pigmy Rush at Windmill Farm (Amanda Scott)