Juncus effusus - soft rush

Family: Juncaceae
Wetland Indictor Status: FACW

General Species Description

Soft rush is a perennial, native, emergent plant growing to a height of 20-100 cm. This species has stout rhizomes and grows in distinct tufts. Soft rush appears to be leafless (leaves are reduced to sheaths that surround stem bases) and have lateral inflorescences (involucral bract appears to be a continuation of the stem). Soft rush is the most tufted rush in the Pacific Northwest.


Soft rush has no apparent leaf blades. The leaves are basal and reduced to brown sheaths wrap around the stems.


Soft rush appears to have lateral inflorescences because the involucral bract, which is round and erect, appears to be a continuation of the stem. The inflorescence is a diffuse to tight panicle, between 3-15 cm in length. Individual flowers have "scales" or tepals (sepals and petals) which are greenish or brown, needle-like, and approximately equal in length with the capsule (2-3.5 mm). This species usually has 3 stamens. Blooms June through August.


The capsules are oval, blunt or rounded at the tip and distinctly 3-cornered. The seeds are elliptical, finely ridged and minutely pointed at the tip.


Soft rush is often found in wet fields, pastures, ditches, tidal flats (fresh and salt water), also in shallow water at edges of ponds or lakes. Soft rush can be found in association with tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia cespitosa), three-square bulrush (Scirpus americanus), Baltic rush (Juncus balticus) and creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens).


Soft rush occurs from Alaska to Baja California, east through Canada to Manitoba and Newfoundland and in most of the central and eastern United States.

Similar Species

Soft rush is extremely variable in form and varieties. Baltic rush (Juncus balticus) can be distinguished by its more delicate form and flowers with 6 stamens and tepals that are 3.5-5 mm long. Spreading of grooved rush (Juncus patens) can distinguished by its blue-green stems.

Ecological Value

Soft rush can be used by muskrats and nutria as a food source and as shelter by various wading birds.

Human Value

Soft rush was used for weaving by the Comox Indians of Brithish Columbia and the Quinault Indians of Washington mix them with cattails to weave tumplines and string. It has been reported that the Okanage-Coville Indians used soft rush to feed horses and the Hesquiat Nootka and Snaqualmi Indians used the species for tying and binding.


Cooke, S. S., ed. 1997. A Field Guide to the Common Wetland Plants of Western Washington & Northwest Oregon. Seattle Audubon Society and Washington Native Plant Society. Seattle Audubon Society, Seattle WA, 417pp.

B. J. Guard. 1995.Wetland Plants of Oregon &Washington. Lone Star Publishing, Richmond WA, 239pp.

Hitchcock, C. L. and A. Cronquist. 1973. Flora of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press, Seattle WA, 730pp.

Pojar, J. and A. MacKinnon. 1994. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Lone Star Publishing, Richmond WA, 526pp.

Turner, N. J. 1979. Plants in British Columbia Indian Technology. Handbook # 38. British Columbia Provincial Museum, Victoria, British Columbia.

Turner, N.J., R.Bouchard, D. Kennedy. 1980. Ethnobotany of the Okanagan-Coville Indians of British Columbia and Washington. Occasional Paper # 21. British Columbia Provincial Museum, Victoria, British Columbia.

Turner, N. J., J. Thomas, D. F. Carlson and R.T. Ogivile. 1983. Ethnobotany of the Nitinaht Indians of Vancouver Island. Occasional Paper # 24. British Columbia Provincial Museum, Victoria, British Columbia.

This page was created by: Joseph Maser, July 1998

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