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Community Field Guide

Scientific Name:
Scirpus tabernaemontani Temperate Herbaceous Vegetation

Common Name:
Softstem bulrush Temperate Herbaceous Vegetation

Community Description

The Scirpus tabernaemontani association is typically found at low to mid-elevations across Montana, but more frequently in the eastern part of the state. It is found in marshes, pond and lake margins, oxbow lakes, and backwater areas of rivers and streams. Soils are commonly Mollisols (Aquolls), Entisols (Aquents), or sometimes Histosols, and soil reaction ranges from neutral to moderately alkaline (pH 7.0 to 8.0). This community can occur in standing water up to 1 to 2 m deep, and it is usually classified as semi-permanently flooded as the water levels can drop below the soil surface by the end of the growing season. This community occupies the same position in the landscape as Typha sp., with open water or aquatic communities occupying wetter spots and Salix sp., Carex sp., or Phalaris arundinacea communities occupying nearby drier sites (Hansen et al. 1988, Hansen et al. 1995).

This plant association usually forms dense monocultures that can occupy large areas. Stems are usually 1 to 2 m tall. The flooded condition in which this species often grows precludes the establishment of other graminoids and forbs; if present, species like Comarum palustre and Polygonum amphibium are often widely scattered. This species requires bare, moist soils for seed germination for it to rapidly colonize newly exposed mudflats and drawdown areas (Hansen et al. 1988, Hansen et al. 1995).

Communities of Scirpus tabernaemontani apparently extend from coast-to-coast, though they barely dip into the southeast in Virginia and Maryland; there are of course localized variations that are dependent on the floristics of a given region.

Softstem bulrush has low to moderate palatability to livestock, and because communities are usually flooded, access for livestock is usually difficult. When stands dry down, livestock may heavily utilize these communities if upland forage is sparse. Stands of soft stem bulrush can buffer wave action on lakes and ponds (Hansen et al. 1995).

Global Rank: G5 State Rank: S3

Community References


99-10-15 / J. Greenlee, MTNHP

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This information is from the:
Montana Natural Heritage Program
Montana State Library--Natural Resource Information System
1515 East Sixth Ave., Helena, MT 59620-1800
406 444-5354