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SPECIES:  Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani
Softstem bulrush in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Image by Troy Evans,


SPECIES: Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION: Snyder, S. A. 1993. Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. Revisions: Images were added on 19 October 2018. ABBREVIATION: SCHTAB SYNONYMS: Scirpus lacustris L. subsp. creber (Fernald) T. Koyama Scirpus lacustris L. subsp. glaucus (Rchb.) Hartm. Scirpus lacustris L. subsp. validus (Vahl) T. Koyama [35] Scirpus validus Vahl [16] NRCS PLANT CODE: SCTA2 COMMON NAMES: softstem bulrush soft-stem bulrush soft-stem clubrush great bulrush giant bulrush bullwhip common bulrush TAXONOMY: The scientific name of softstem bulrush is Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani (K.C. Gmel.) Palla (Cyperaceae) [35,36]. LIFE FORM: Graminoid FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: No special status OTHER STATUS: NO ENTRY


SPECIES: Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Softstem bulrush occurs throughout North America from central Alaska south to Mexico, east to the Maritime Provinces of Canada, and south through Florida. It does not occur through central and southern California [8]. It is native on the Hawaiian islands of Niihau, Oahu, Molokai, and Hawaii [34].
Distribution of softstem bulrush. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC. [2018, October 19] [30].
   FRES17  Elm - ash - cottonwood
   FRES28  Western hardwoods
   FRES36  Mountain grasslands
   FRES37  Mountain meadows
   FRES39  Prairie
   FRES41  Wet grasslands

     AL  AK  AZ  AR  CA  CO  CT  DE  FL  GA
     HI  ID  IL  IN  IA  KS  KY  LA  ME  MD
     MA  MI  MN  MS  MO  MT  NE  NV  NH  NJ
     NM  NY  NC  ND  OH  OK  OR  PA  RI  SC
     SD  TN  TX  UT  VT  VA  WA  WV  WI  WY
     AB  BC  MB  NB  NF  NT  NS  ON  PE  PQ

    1  Northern Pacific Border
    2  Cascade Mountains
    4  Sierra Mountains
    5  Columbia Plateau
    6  Upper Basin and Range
    7  Lower Basin and Range
    8  Northern Rocky Mountains
    9  Middle Rocky Mountains
   10  Wyoming Basin
   11  Southern Rocky Mountains
   12  Colorado Plateau
   13  Rocky Mountain Piedmont
   14  Great Plains
   15  Black Hills Uplift
   16  Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands

   K025  Alder - ash forest
   K049  Tule marshes
   K063  Foothills prairie
   K072  Sea oats prairie
   K073  Northern cordgrass prairie
   K075  Nebraska Sandhills prairie
   K078  Southern cordgrass prairie
   K080  Marl - everglades
   K092  Everglades
   K098  Northern floodplain forest

    63  Cottonwood
   235  Cottonwood - willow

Softstem bulrush is a dominant in the following classification type:

Landscape classification and plant successional trends in the
   Peace-Athabasca Delta [7]

Some species associated with softstem bulrush are smartweed (Polygonum
spp.), sedge (Carex spp.), common cattail, reed (Phragmites spp.), water
hemlock (Circuta maculata), spikerush (Eleocharis calva), fowl
mannagrass (Glyceria striata), tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia
caespitosa), beggartick (Bidens spp.), narrowlieaf burreed (Sparganium
eurycarpum), common arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia), sego pondweed
(Potamogeton pectinatus), and nodding waternymph (Najas flexilis)


SPECIES: Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE: The seeds of softstem bulrush are eaten by waterfowl and considered a good to excellent food source in South Dakota [3,9]. PALATABILITY: NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE: NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE: Softstem bulrush provides good cover for waterfowl, especially in conjunction with common cattail (Typha latifolia) [13]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES: Softstem bulrush is used in wetland restoration and is best planted vegetatively because it can triple its biomass in one growing season [20]. It is also used to reduce pollutant loads carried by storm water runoff in urban wetlands [25]. OTHER USES AND VALUES: Roots of softstem bulrush can be ground into flour or eaten whole. Syrup can be extracted from them [8]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: Livestock grazing in wetlands can reduce softstem bulrush [13]. Softstem bulrush will establish from the seedbank following periodic draining and reflooding of marshes [6,22]. However, prolonged draining and reflooding can reduce softstem bulrush stands [18]. In a Minnesota marsh, early to mid-June drawdowns favored softstem bulrush stands in the first 2 years. After the third-year drawdonw, bulrush began to decrease in water depths greater than 15 inches (38 cm). Eventually it was eradicated from all areas reflooded annually [18].


SPECIES: Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Softstem bulrush is a tall, leafless marsh plant 1.5 to 9 feet (0.5-3 m) high and 0.12 to 0.8 inches (0.3-2 cm) thick with scaly, stout, horizontal rhizomes [11]. The stems are obscurely three-sided and spongy [17]. Spikes occur near the stem tips in branched clusters [8]. The fruit is an achene [11]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM: Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES: Softstem bulrush reproduces by both rhizomes and seeds [11,17]. It reproduces well from seed stored in the seedbank [18]. Soil-stored seed can remain viable for as long as 20 years [31]. In the lab, seed viability in dry storage is more than 2 years [14]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Softstem bulrush grows in marshes, along lake and stream shores, and in wet meadows. It grows in fresh or brackish water [5,16,23]. Soils are usually poorly-drained [5], or continually saturated [12]. Softstem bulrush grows in silty or peaty soils [18]. Under greenhouse conditions softstem bulrush produced more aboveground biomass in silty clay soils than in clay or sand alone [1]. Belowground biomass was equal in silty clays and clays, and lower in sandy soils. Softstem bulrush seems to grow better in saline conditions than in fresh water, and it tolerates a wide range of salinity [32]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Softstem bulrush is a perennial [17] and is a dominant emergent in the northern plains and prairie states [19]. It is replaced by cattail (Typha spp.) in continuously flooded marshes following drawdown [18]. Softstem bulrush is found in the third sere of succession in Wisconsin marshes, preceded by submerged and floating plant stages and followed by sedge meadows, shrubs, and trees [12]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Because of the wide distribution of softstem bulrush, its growing seasons varies with latitude. In the northeast softstem bulrush flowers from July through August [23]. Flowering lasts from 5 to 6 months in wetland prairies of Nebraska [28]. Fernald [11] reported fruits generally ripening from June through September.


SPECIES: Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: Softstem bulrush sprouts from rhizomes following fire [27]. FIRE REGIMES: Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY: Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)


SPECIES: Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT: Fire topkills softstem bulrush stands [13] and reduces shoot mass of Schoenoplectus species [27]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT: The effects of fire on wetland plants after drawdowns in Utah's Great Salt Lake Marsh were studied [27]. On burned sites new shoots had a lower biomass per inch of length than shoots on unburned sites. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE: Softstem bulrush sprouts from rhizomes following fire [27]. Fire increases protein content of Schoenoplectus acutus, a closely related species [33]. Wetland vertebrates may select certain marsh plant species due to protein increases following fire [27]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE: Prescribed fires were lit in early September following April drawdowns in the Great Salt Lake Marsh [27]. No distinction was made between S. tabernaemontani and Schoenoplectus acutus in this study. Both were referred to as "Scirpus lacustris". Burned and unburned sites were reflooded 1 week following fire. Stands of bulrush on burned sites were similar to those on unburned sites during the first year. Bulrush began sprouting immediately following fire, growing to a height of 1.3 feet (0.4 m) before the first winter. Production did not differ between sites. Waterfowl and muskrats can reduce softstem bulrush through overgrazing, especially following fire [27]. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: No entry


SPECIES: Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani
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A morphological comparison of Scirpus acutus and S. validus in southern Manitoba. Canadian Journal of Botany. 66(11): 2331-2337. [21916] 27. Smith, Loren M.; Kadlec, John A. 1985. Fire and herbivory in a Great Salt Lake marsh. Ecology. 66(1): 259-265. [7619] 28. Steiger, T. L. 1930. Structure of prairie vegetation. Ecology. 11(1): 170-217. [3777] 29. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p. [20090] 30. U.S. Department of Agriculture, NRCS. 2018. PLANTS Database, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (Producer). Available: [34262] 31. Wienhold, C. E.; van der Valk, A. G. 1989. The impact of duration of drainage on the seed banks of northern prairie wetlands. Canadian Journal of Botany. 67(6): 1878-1884. [13799] 32. 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