Kildare's Wildlife Watch: Summer reed mace is nature’s water filter

Nuala Madigan of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council


Nuala Madigan of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council


Kildare's Wildlife Watch: Summer reed mace is nature’s water filter

A bulrush pictured on the banks of the Grand Canal, Monasterevin, last summer. Picture: Nuala Madigan

Some weeks ago I asked you to watch for the common frog in your local area and encouraged each of you to become citizen scientists by reporting your frog sightings to the Hop To It Frog Survey 2021 by visiting

Last week the first frog spawn was reported in County Kildare, and as a reminder to you in your local 5km this week, if you observe frogs or their spawn, get involved and report your sightings.

Many of our local areas have wetlands such as ponds, ditches, canals and rivers ideal for frogs and this week, while visiting these areas, you may also come across bulrush (coigeal na mban sí as Gaeilge).

This is a native plant that was once referred to as reed mace. This plant typically can be found growing at the edges of the wetland. The leaves are green, held upright and are approximately 2cm in diameter. The brown, spike-like flower at the top of the plant resembles a sausage. You can observe reed mace from July to August each year.

At this time of year, you will see the seed heads of last year’s flowers. They look like cream cotton candy and are designed to be dispersed in the wind.

The importance of this plant is similar to many of our wetland plants in that they have an important role in filtering our water.

The bulrush absorbs harmful micro organisms from the water, benefiting from the nutrients these provide while at the same time removing them from the water keeping it clean.

Other wetland plants that are known to also be good for water filtration include common reeds, yellow flag iris and branched bur-reed.

It is said that bulrush was once harvested to weave baskets.

Visiting a local wetland in your 5km to look for bulrush this week will also give you the perfect opportunity to watch for frogs and frog spawn.

Will you find either of these wild species in your community this week?

If you come across a wildlife species that you would like help identifying I would be happy to help. Contact me at