Sweet-flags

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What are they?

For a long time, the sweet-flags were considered to be members of the arum family and they certainly have some similarities in their strange flower spikes. But the flower-spikes of sweet-flags lack the spathe that surrounds the spike of arums and these plants are now put in their own family, the Acoraceae.

Where are they found?

A single species of this family has been recorded in the East Anglian region and this is a species that grows on the margins of lakes, rivers and canals, or occasionally more seasonally wet areas such as ponds or ditches.

Identification

With only one species to consider, this is a relatively easy plant to identify by its combination of iris-like leaves and strange spike of dense, petalless flowers.



European Sweet-flag      Acorus calamus

Introduced from mainland Europe for its herbal qualities. Populations of this plant persist along a few of the regions waterways, especially along the Waveney, Little Ouse and Yare valleys and at scattered lakes and ponds elsewhere. Flowers May to July but often not produced. When in flower, this plant is easy to identify, but flowers can be scarce in the UK and then the plant is easily missed among other, similar-looking plants. A good distinguishing feature is the puckering that appears on one side of the midrib along the leaves.

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Habit
Flower spike
Leaf
Old flower spike