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Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin


(Scirpus validus Vahl)

Softstem Bulrush

Comparison of stem cross sections
Hardstem Bulrush
(Scirpus acutus)
Softstem Bulrush
(Scirpus validus)
Comparison of Stem Cross Sections

SEDGE FAMILY (Cyperaceae)


FIELD CHARACTERISTICS: A perennial herb from slender rhizomes. The stems are 1-3 m. in height, cylindrical, light green, with a few sheathing vestigial leaves at the base. Stems may be 1-1.5 cm. thick and are large-chambered so they can be easily crushed between the thumb and index finger. Spikelets number several to many, and are 5-10 mm. long and oval. A specialized leaf that appears to be a continuation of the stem exceeds the spikelets. Nutlets are 1.6-2.1(2.4)mm. long with 6 basal bristles about equal in length to the nutlet. Scales are shiny orange to brown, often with a conspicuous green midrib. The scales are slightly greater in length than the nutlet itself. In flower from June to September.

ECOLOGICAL NOTES: Softstem bulrush is a persistent emergent found in deep and shallow marshes, lakes, streams, and occasionally bogs. It may form large stands or be intermixed with other emergent species. Softstem bulrush usually prefers mucky substrates with more stagnant conditions than those preferred by hardstem bulrush. It provides valuable nesting cover for water birds, and is eaten by muskrats. Some authorities include this species with the Eurasian S. tabernaemontani K.C. Gmel. (Kartesz 1994).

SOURCE: Gleason and Cronquist (1991); and Voss (1972).

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