Scirpus californicus (C. Meyer) Steudel

                                                                      Cyperaceae (Sedge Family)                  

                                                                    Native, Atlantic Coast, S. Am., Hawaii


California Bulrush

                                          May Photo


Plant Characteristics:  Stout perennial; culms subterete to triangular, to 4 m. tall; lvs. reduced to basal sheaths; involucral lf. solitary, erect shorter than inflorescence, infl. loosely umbellate; spikelets narrow, acute, 5-10 mm. long, scales ovate, reddish-brown; bristles 2-4, dark red or sometimes pale red, broad and ciliate or plumose, not barbed.


Habitat:  Freshwater marsh, salt marsh and wet places in various Plant Communities, at low elevs., cismontane and occasionally desert; to cent. Calif.  June-Sept.


Name:  Latin, scirpus, a rush, bulrush.  (Jaeger 231).  Californicus, indicates where the plant was first found.  (Dale 13).


General:  Very common in the study area.  Photographed on the Santa Ana Heights Flats and along Back Bay Dr. at the north end of Eastbluff.  This plant is most often associated with fresh water habitats; however, it will also grow in areas below the line of highest tide.  An example of this can be found along the path between 23rd St. and Mariners Dr. where at high tide, a  population grows in the bay.  One of the native halophytes found in Upper Newport Bay. (my comments).    Indians used stems to build small boats and weave mats and baskets.  The roots were used to weave baskets; they have a reddish color and gave a pattern when used with other brownish materials. At present the stems are used to pack nursery stock, for thatching haystacks and as a source of potash.  (Robbins et al. 118).     The Indians used the stems for the inside of foot coverings; as insulation and to keep the foot dry.  (Lecture by Charlotte Clarke, author of Useful and Edible Plants of California, April 1987).      For traveling on the bays, a light tule boat was all that was needed.  Even these boats could be paddled for some distance.  Almost all the tribes used them.  Bundles of tule were formed into flat boats, very long and high at each end.  The tule boats were so light that they floated high on top of the water.  (Bauer 71).       The Cahuilla, Indians of the Colorado Desert, the San Jacinto and San Bernardino mountains, used the white starchy tuberous roots of bulrushes to make sweet tasting flour.  Seeds were gathered and eaten raw or ground into mush.  Cakes were made of bulrush pollen.  The stalks were used for bedding, mats, weaving materials, and roofing.  The ceremonial bundle and images for the Cahuilla image-burning ceremony were also made of bulrush.  (Bean and Saubel 139).       (There is no description of this ceremony or explanation as to why it took place). (my comment).       For additional information on the Bulrushes see S. americanus, S. acutus var. occidentalis and S. robustus.  (my comments).


Text Ref:  Hickman, Ed. 1147; Munz, Calif. Flora 1418; Munz, Flora So. Calif. 902.

Photo Ref:  May 1 83 # 11,12.; Aug 1 86 # 6; June-Aug 98 # 16.

Identity: by R. De Ruff, confirmed by Gordon Marsh.  

First Found:  May 1983.


Computer Ref:  Plant Data 24.

Have plant specimen.

Last edit 4/6/05.  


                    May Photo                                                                      July Photo