Softstem bulrush

Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani

(Scirpus validus) 

Common Name: Softstem bulrush

  • Numerous tall, pale, blue-green stems that grow in the shallow water.
  • Stems are soft and are easily compressed when gently squeezed.
  • Found in huge stands by itself, or mixed with other lime-tolerant plants.
  • Flowers from late spring into summer.

Native or Invasive: Native perennial

Characteristics: The numerous, tall, blue-green stems grow from 3-10 feet tall and are clonal, meaning they grow in clones, or groups of plants that have underground vegetative connections. The flowers are tiny spikelets that are egg shaped, that are found in floppy, often drooping, loosely arranged flower heads. It is widespread throughout temperate North America and south into warmer climates. There can be acres of these bulrushes along the coasts as well as inland. It is very similar to a Eurasian species and some experts consider it to be the same.

Habitat: Shores and shallow waters of lakes, ponds and marshes throughout the region.

Fun Fact: The bulrush was used to make mats for floors and walls, as well as saddles, toys and images of the dead.

Ethnobotanical Uses: It was eaten raw for food. Also used to stop bleeding and as a snakebite remedy. A wide variety of waterfowl and other animals eat the seeds.

Adapted from Guide to Great Lakes Coastal Plants, by Ellen Elliott Weatherbee, University of Michigan Press.