Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 940 Juncus effusus

Common Names: soft rush, common rush Family: Juncaceae (common rush Family)
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soft rush
Clumps of soft rush trace the extent of low wet areas of a cow pasture in Jefferson County Florida.


Soft rush is a perennial wetland plant that grows in a clump or tussock and spreads by vigorous underground rhizomes. The bright green stems (there are no leaves) are cylindrical, without nodes, rather soft, and taper to a bristle. They are smooth or slightly striated. The clump is erect or slightly arching and usually stands a little less than 3 ft (0.9 m) tall. The flowers and fruits are borne in compact clusters that appear to emerge laterally a few inches below the tip of the flowering stem. Actually, the inflorescence emerges from the tip of the stem but a bract extends beyond and looks like a continuation of the stem. Several selections for horticultural use have been named. Juncus effusus 'Spiralis' (corkscrew rush) is low growing with strongly spiraling stems. The foliage of 'Cuckoo' has longitudinal yellow stripes, while 'Vittatus' has narrow creamy white bands, and 'Zebrinus' has broad white bands.

soft rush
In Jack's Catfish Pond soft rush colonized sections of shoreline happily growing among water grasses and other marginal species (the soft rush is green, the others are tan). It established itself in less than year when the water was at a very low level. Water levels then rose which killed these plants but they grew runners (rhizomes) that spread to sprout a new generation of plants at the new waterline.


Soft rush, Juncus effusus, is a cosmopolitan species. It occurs in freshwater wetlands on all continents, even Australia and New Zealand. Soft rush is a common plant in wet cow pastures, along ditches, lake and river margins, and in marshes.


Soft rush grows vigorously in heavy, wet acidic soils. In mild climates where it does not freeze to the ground, soft rush may be cut to the ground to remove old stems and encourage new growth. Light: Full sun to partial shade. Moisture: Soft rush normally grows in areas that are periodically flooded. It grows best in such situations to be sure, but it also can withstand periods of drying out, and it can tolerate continued submergence in up to 3 in (7.6 cm) of water. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 10. In cold climates, soft rush dies to the ground and resprouts in spring with fresh green growth. In milder climates older stems turn brown and tend to accumulate, resulting in a less attractive plant. Propagation: Propagate soft rush by division in spring.


Soft rush is often planted along the margins of ponds, canals or ditches where its tendency to spread is a good thing. It can be planted in water as deep as 3 in (7.6 cm), or in damp soils that may or may not get flooded occasionally. To keep a planting under control, sow in a submerged container so the rhizomes cannot spread. Corkscrew rush (cv. 'Spiralis') grows in a tangled mass (mess?) to 14 in (35.6 cm) high and is well suited to container culture. Soft rush (and especially the corkscrew form) makes a dramatic background in fresh and dried floral arrangements.

duck rushes
Jack's ducks swim near spiky green clumps of soft rush that has colonized the shore of the Catfish Pond

In Japan, soft rush is cultivated intensively for weaving tatami, the traditional split-rush floor covering used in Japanese homes.


Grasslike plants include the true grasses (family Poaceae) with cylindrical, jointed stems; the sedges Cyperaceae which includes papyrus (Cyperus papyrus ) and umbrella sedge (Cyperus involucratus) with triangular stems, and the rushes (Juncaceae) with cylindrical, unjointed stems. The rush family includes 10 genera and over 300 species. The genus Juncus has about 225 species. Millions of acres of coastal saltmarshes along Atlantic and Gulf shores from Maryland to Texas are dominated by pure stands of needle rush (Juncus romerianus).


Be careful bending over in a stand of soft rush - the bristles on the stem tips don't feel so soft when you stick one in your eye!

Steve Christman 1/25/02; updated 11/14/03

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Juncus species profiled on Floridata:

Juncus effusus

( soft rush, common rush )

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