The unique, light green, flowers of the bur reed are arranged in tight spherical structures along the length of the zig-zagged stem. The bur reed is not a perfect flower; female flowers have a single stigma, light green, scaly sepals and petals, and form large, spiny clusters, measuring 2.5 cm in width, along the lower part of the stem. The male flowers form slightly smaller and more numerous flower clusters above the female clusters. These light green, male clusters are covered with a fuzzy coating of pollen and tend to shrivel and fall off after pollination.
The seed-like fruit are bent and grow within the bur-like heads of the female flower cluster.
The textured leaves are long in proportion to the plant itself, and measure approximately 90 cm. in length. They are thin, channeled, and exhibit conspicuous parallel veining. Most of the leaves are partially submerged.
Bur reed is an aquatic wildflower and grows best in shallow water of along muddy shorelines.
Bur reed often grow in thick communities along shorelines. More so than other aquatic wildflowers, a considerable portion of the bur reed plant remains submerged.
The seeds of the bur reed are a popular food source for waterfowl and other marsh burds. Also, the entire plant serves as a food source for muskrats