Northern Ireland's Priority Species

Luzula pallidula – fen wood-rush


Distribution map

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Luzula pallidula Kirschner
Family: Juncaceae

Fen Wood-rush is superficially similar to Heath Wood-rush (Luzula multiflora). In 1970 the species was found for the first time in Ireland by John Harron on the shore of Lough Neagh. Fen Wood-rush has not been recorded in Ireland since that date.

In brief

  • The one site for this species was at Duross Bay south of Toome on Lough Neagh
  • At Duross Bay it was found on wet bare substrate
  • The species should be in flower from May to June
  • Fen Wood-rush is a Northern Ireland Priority Species as it has been found at only one site
  • The original site where the species was found was revisited in 1992 to try to relocate the species but the search was unsuccessful as the habitat had been destroyed
  • Unless the species can be found at another site, the species may well be extinct in Northern Ireland

Species description
Fen Wood-rush is superficially similar to Heath Wood-rush (Luzula multiflora) but it differs from the latter species in having pale yellowish-brown flowers and conspicuously unequal inner and outer tepals.

Life cycle
Fen Wood-rush is a perennial which reproduces by seed.

Similar species
The most similar species is Heath Wood-rush (Luzula multiflora) from which Fen Wood-rush can be distinguished by the colour of its flowers and the relative size of its inner and outer tepals.

How to see this species
The only site known for the species was on the shore of Lough Neagh, so if the species is to be refound in Northern Ireland, the shores of Lough Neagh are a promising place to start looking.

Current status
As fen Wood-rush has not been seen since 1970, it is possible that the species is extinct in Northern Ireland.

Why is this species a priority in Northern Ireland?
The species was restricted to just one site in Northern Ireland and appears to be extinct as a native species in the British Isles. Fen Wood-rush is now only known from Huntingdonshire where it is naturalized from an introduction.

Threats/Causes of decline
The site on Lough Neagh where this species was originally found had been disturbed to such an extent that the species could not be refound in a subsequent search.

Conservation of this species

Current action

  • The original site has been resurveyed without success
  • Botanical surveyors are aware of the species and look out for it, especially in the Lough Neagh Basin

Proposed objectives/actions
Attempt to refind the species in Northern Ireland by making surveyors aware of the key points of its identification.

What you can do
If you think you have found this species, contact your local Biodiversity Officer
Or you can submit your records to CEDaR
The study of wild plants is an interesting hobby for anyone interested in the outdoors. The Botanical Society of the British Isles welcomes beginners to its field trips. The BSBI can be contacted through

Further information

Northern Ireland Vascular Plant Database

Hackney, P. (1992). Stewart and Corry’s Flora of the North-east of Ireland (third Edition). Institute of Irish Studies, Queen’s University, Belfast.
Harron, J. (1986). Flora of Lough Neagh. Irish Naturalists’ Journal Committee and the University of Ulster, Coleraine.
Preston, C.D., Pearman, D.A., Dines, T.D. (2002). New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Stace, C.A. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles Third Edition. Cambridge University Press.

Text written by:
Robert Northridge