One of the most common species of Juncus, the native soft rush may be found as a single clump, as a colony of clumps or as a colony of single stems several feet tall, in water or on “dry” ground. It may be found in fresh- or saltwater wet areas. Soft rush provides food and nesting to birds and other wildlife. Twenty-one species of Juncus occurs in Florida (Wunderlin, 2003). Soft rush is located throughout the majority of the US, parts of Canada, and PR (Kartesz, 1999).
Soft rush is a true rush. Its pale-green stems are erect and two to five feet tall. Stems are cylindrical and filled with pithy pith. Soft rush has no leaves. Leafy reddish sheaths wrap the stems at the bottom of the plant. The inflorescence of soft rush appears to be coming out of the side of the stem. The inflorescence is open and branched. Each branch has 30-100 small flowers, each greenish-brown flower on its own stalk. Above the inflorescence is a “continuation” of the pointed stem, this being a stiff, rolled and pointed bract, usually brown or grayish when mature.
View the herbarium specimen image from the University of Florida Herbarium Digital Imaging Projects.
Soft rush – Juncus effusus
Soft rush was probably introduced to America from Europe. Soft rush typically grows in very crowded stands. It may be found throughout Florida in fresh or saltwater marshes, swamps, shores, meadows, forests, ponds, or streams. It flowers throughout the year. Soft rush grows in clumps, from short, thick rhizomes. Its pale-green stems are erect, and typically 2 to 5 feet tall. They are cylindrical and filled with spongy pith. Soft rush has no leaves. However, the plant does have leafy sheaths that wrap the stems at the bottom of the plant. The sheaths can be 5 or more inches long and are reddish-brown. The sheath is open, much like a piece of paper wrapped around the stem. The inflorescence appears to be coming out of the side of the stem. However, it actually is at the top of the stem. What appears to be a continuation of the stem above the inflorescence is really a highly modified, stiff bract that is rolled and tapering to a point. The soft rush inflorescence has many branches, with many small flowers. Each flower is on its own stalk (or pedicel) of various lengths. Each tiny greenish-brown flower has 3 petals and 3 sepals, but they require a magnifying glass to see. The fruit is an obovoid capsule containing minute seeds. The clump-forming soft rush has no leaves on its spongy stems. The inflorescence is highly branched, and appears to be growing from the side of the stem. It has many small, greenish-brown flowers. The fruit of soft rush is an obovoid capsule with minute seeds.