Scattered clumps of rushes provide valuable structural and plant variety in grassland. The various species include hard, soft, compact, jointed, sharp-flowered and toad rush. They provide food and shelter for invertebrates and small mammals and, in larger areas of damp grassland, important wader nesting habitat.
However, in wetter grassland, rushes can sometimes spread very invasively and reduce the botanical interest of a species-rich sward making management important.
Rush control options
In rush pastures and fen meadows, for botanical interest English Nature recommend that rush cover should not be more than half. For wetland birds on larger sites, however, English Nature recommend a cover of rushes of less than one third.
Where rush control is required on small sites consider the following options to minimise harm to wildlife and maximise effectiveness of control:
• Top one area of rushes monthly, starting before midsummer, to reduce the plants’ vigour – more effective than more regular cutting. Use a sturdy topper, set a few cm above the height of the thick tussock base to minimise damage to machines and insects.
• Top once a year in July or August when the rushes are flowering to keep rushes in check.