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Illinois Native Plant Guide - Soft-stem Bulrush - Pages 136-137

Illinois Native Plant Guide

Soft-stem Bulrush (Great Bulrush)
Scirpus tabernaemontani (S. validus creber)

Preferred Water Depth and Inundation Tolerance

Prefers water at a depth of 12-20 inches (Max: 4’/Min: saturated soil to 6”). Species tolerates flooding of 2 feet or more, but not total inundation, for 3 weeks or longer during the growing season.

Wildlife Value

Achenes are eaten by many waterfowl, shorebirds, and rails. Plants are eaten by muskrats. Provides valuable nesting cover for waterfowl and habitat for insects and young fish.


Excellent for lower shoreline zone stabilization. Also used in vegetated swales.

Availability, Establishment, and Maintenance

  • Achenes, rhizomes, rootstocks, and container plants are available from several commercial vendors.
  • Seeding in the fall is more successful than in the spring. Sow fresh collected achenes on wet mudflats at the end of the growing season. Seeded area must be kept wet and covered with 1-2 inches of water during the winter, followed by spring drawdown. Avoid submergence of young seedlings.
  • Rootstock, rhizomes, and transplants are the preferred material for more reliable plant establishment. Best results are achieved with spring planting. Plant rootstocks and rhizomes at a depth of 5-6 inches in soil. Entire plants may be planted in 6 inches of soil and up to 1 foot of water. Space propagules on 2-6 foot centers because of their rapid rate of spread.
  • Manipulation of water levels is desirable for promoting seed germination and vegetative establishment. Late spring drawdown is most favorable with gradual increase of water level.
  • Because muskrats and Canada geese may depredate new plantings, control measures must be taken.
  • This species is sensitive to oxygen depletion.

Soft-stem Bulrush (Great Bulrush)
Scirpus tabernaemontani (S. validus creber)

Mature Height
3-9 feetSoft-stem Bulrush (Great Bulrush)

Plant Type
Perennial emergent herb

Indicator Status


Nutrient Load Tolerance

Salt Tolerance
Low to moderate

Siltation Tolerance

Flowering Color and Time
June to August

Light Preference
Full sun

Seeding Rate
.06 - .25 lbs/acre

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