Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Softstem Bulrush - Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani   (C.C. Gmelin) Palla
Members of Cyperaceae:
Members of Schoenoplectus with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Cyperaceae
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Author(C.C. Gmelin) Palla
DistributionLow-mid elevations throughout the Mountains, and essentially throughout the outer Coastal Plain, including the Outer Banks. Only scattered in the Piedmont and most of the central and inner Coastal Plain, gaps that appear to be real.

Newf. to AK, south to South America.
AbundanceFrequent to common in the Mountains and outer Coastal Plain; uncommon to scarce in the Piedmont. Seemingly very rare if not absent in much of the east-central part of the state. Where found, it forms colonies or patches.
HabitatFreshwater marshes, floodplain pools and oxbows, impoundment margins, fresh-tidal marshes, interdune swales.
See also Habitat Account for General Sedge, Grass, and Rush Mires
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting June-September.
IdentificationSoftstem bulrush is robust, up to 9 feet tall, the round stems arising from thick horizontal rhizomes. Near the top of the stem is an inflorescence with arching branches tipped with chestnut or rusty brown, ovoid spikelets. From the base of the inflorescence grows a bract which appears as if it is a continuation of the stem. The species is very similar to S. acutus, but the female scale awns are shorter (0.2-0.8 mm long vs. 0.5-2 mm long in that species) and usually straight (vs. usually bent in S. acutus). The two species are known to hybridize and so some specimens may not key cleanly. This species normally can be separated from S. acutus by the culms (stems) that are soft and easily compressed; the other species has firm to hard stems that are difficult to compress.
Taxonomic CommentsA synonym is Scirpus validus.

The genus Schoenoplectus has been split from Scirpus and includes plants with sessile spikelets, or with spikelets with a few branches (vs. open, widely branching inflorescences). Most of our Schoenoplectus species appear to have no leaves (exceptions are S. etuberculatus and S. subterminalis), whereas Scirpus taxa have well-developed basal and stem leaves.
Other Common Name(s)Grey Clubrush, Great Bulrush
State RankS4
Global RankG5
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