Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1120 Schoenoplectus californicus

Common Names: California bulrush, giant bulrush, tule Family: Cyperaceae (sedge Family)
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Bulrush finds a home in a Florida flood control pond where it helps remove excess nutrients from run off water and provides habitat for birds and wildlife.


There are several species in the sedge family called bulrushes, and they are all pretty similar. Schoenoplectus californicus, the giant or California bulrush, is probably the species most likely to be found at garden nurseries in the southern U.S. The bulrushes are perennial herbaceous monocots, with long triangular stems that usually get around 5-8 ft (1.5-2.4 m) tall; some species considerably taller. The leaves are slender, v-shaped blades sheathed around the long upright stems, and usually quite short. The inflorescence of California bulrush is a bristly reddish brown plume, borne at the top of the stem. Bulrushes grow in dense spreading clones, and have thick, brown rhizomes (underground stems).


Schoenoplectus californicus, the California bulrush, is abundant in freshwater marshes from California east to South Carolina and Florida, and throughout South America. It also occurs in the Hawaiian Islands. Other species occur throughout the world, in fresh and brackish waters.


Light: Bulrushes grow in full sun, but some can tolerate some light shade. Moisture: The bulrushes typically grow in the water or at the water's edge. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 11. There are species of bulrush adapted to all hardiness zones from 3 to 11. Propagation:


Giant bulrush (and other species often called "tule" in California) were used by native Americans for food, roofing, insulation, thatch, bedding, clothing, and many other applications. Young shoots of bulrush can be eaten raw or cooked. The pollen is used as flour to make bread, mush or pancakes. The seeds can ground into a flour as well. The large rhizomes are eaten raw or cooked, much as for cattails, but described as sweeter than cattails. The floating islands of Lake Titicaca, in the South American Andes, and known for the Uros people who live upon them, are made up of interconnected rhizomes from this species of bulrush. Bulrushes along the Nile have proven useful for hiding infant boys from mean pharaohs.

The bulrush flower cluster emerges from just below the tip of each stem.

The landscaper uses bulrushes along pond or lake edges as screens or specimen plants. Bulrush is often planted for erosion control, stream bank stabilization, wildlife cover and food, and wetland restoration in general. The seeds are eaten by ducks, rails, and many other birds, as well as wetland rodents. I have been known to extract largemouth bass with a taste for plastic worms from bulrush clumps in Florida lakes.


The bulrushes were formerly placed in the genus, Scirpus, and many nurseries still use that name. There are about 14 species of Schoenoplectus in Florida, 80 species worldwide. Several (including species for brackish situations) are available in the nursery trade.

Steve Christman 7/6/10

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Schoenoplectus species profiled on Floridata:

Schoenoplectus californicus

( California bulrush, giant bulrush, tule )

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