Juncus tenuis (Path Rush)

Plant Info
Also known as: Poverty Rush, Slender Rush
Family:Juncaceae (Rush)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade, sun; dry to moist disturbed soils; roadsides, trails, shores, ditches, clearings
Fruiting season:June - August
Plant height:6 to 20 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 6-petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowering cluster] Loose or compact branching clusters at the top of the stem, the branches erect to ascending with up to 40 flowers. The lowest branch is subtended by an erect, leaf-like bract that usually rises well above the uppermost branch. Flowers are single, not in heads of 2 or more, short-stalked to nearly stalkless at branch tips, with 6 tepals (petals and similar sepals) in 2 layers, 3.3 to 4.4 mm long, the inner and outer tepals about equal in size and shape, pointed at the tip and green to light brown with white papery edging. Flowers have a 3-parted style and 6 stamens, the anthers (tips) much shorter than the filament (stalk).

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of auricle] A flowering stem has 1 to 3 alternate leaves near the base of the stem. Leaves are 1 to 5 inches long, up to 1mm wide, half as long as the flowering stem or less, more or less flat in cross-section though sometimes the edges are rolled in (involute). The sheath is open at the front. At the tip of the sheath is a pair of narrowly triangular lobes (auricles) 2 to 5 mm long, thin and papery, whitish drying to brown. Stems are round in cross-section, smooth, erect, unbranched, multiple from the base and creating clumps from short rhizomes.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] The tepals persist and become brown to red-brown and erect to somewhat spreading in fruit. Fruit is an elliptic to nearly round, single-chambered capsule 3.8 to 4.7 mm long, brown when mature, as long as or more often shorter than the tepals. Inside the capsule are numerous tiny seeds, elliptic to crescent-shaped, .5 to .7mm long, amber colored to brown when mature with a white stub at the tip but no elongated tails.


Path Rush is aptly named, since it is commonly found in the compacted soils of footpaths, ATV trails and lake shores. The long, papery, triangular auricle separates it from all other Juncus species in Minnesota, but is fragile and easily rips apart, so you may have to examine several plants before finding one intact. Path Rush is similar in many respects to Dudley's Rush (Juncus dudleyi), which has a shorter, thickened auricle, tepals that are larger (4 to 5mm long), and is generally a larger plant. Also similar is Inland Rush (Juncus interior), which has shorter, rounded auricles and also generally a larger plant. Somewhat similar are Greene's Rush (Juncus greenei) and Vasey's Rush (Juncus vaseyi) both of which have capsules distinctly longer than the tepals and leaves that are nearly round in cross-section.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties. Juncus tenuis (plant) by Keir Morse used under CC BY-NC 3.0.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Constance Pepin - Minneapolis
on: 2022-02-12 08:39:24

This plant survives on Bossen Lane in Roberts Bird Sanctuary in Minneapolis.

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