Could the Delta Bulrush save river marshes from oil?

    Former curator of botany at the Academy of Natural Sciences says a plant that he named 40 years ago shows promise in protecting delta ecosystems.

    A Philadelphia botanist says a plant he named forty years ago may become an important protector of habitat if oil works its way up to the Mississippi Delta.

    The Delta bulrush is a marsh plant that grows along the edge of the Mississippi Delta, bordering the water. Migratory water fowl eat the plant’s seeds, which grow at the top of a long green stalk.

    Alfred Ernest Schuyler, the curator emeritus of botany at the Academy of Natural Sciences, identified the plant in 1970. He says he doesn’t know how the plant will react to oil, but that a similar species that grows in the Delaware River has survived oil spills in the past, making Schuyler optimistic.

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    Schuyler: Other work done with this plant by other researchers has documented that it can provide oxygen for microbes in the substrate that have the capacity to decompose oil.

    Schuyler envisions that the bulrush could create a green wall defending the delta from oil. So far oil has not made it that far up the Mississippi River.

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