Soft Stem Rush (Juncus effuses)

Soft Stem Rush (Juncus effuses)
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Soft Stem Rush

Soft Stem Rush

Soft Stem Rush (Juncus effuses) is a clump forming wetland plant that provides a striking vertical element to any garden or container planting.  Soft Stem Rush is a slow spreading, clump forming, grass-like perennial which emerges from a stout branching rootstock.  It is among the most productive of freshwater wetland plant species and is readily propagated from bare root stocks, seedlings, container stalks or direct planting into the soil.  In the wild dispersal by wind, water or animals due to the small size and tacky outer coating of the seed is the primary means of propagation. Native too much of North America, Soft Stem Rush is a perennial in zones 4-10 and tolerates periods of drought and total inundation. As with all rushes, Soft Stem Rush will grow in soils with little to no drainage. Despite its name, Soft Stem Rush is a stiff and upright plant, with cylindrical glossy bright green leaves that closely resemble the leafless stems that form dense tufts. These dense tufts have deep fibrous root systems, that provide excellent erosion control, filter suspended solids, absorb nutrients, and assist with substrate oxidation. Soft Stem Rush is an ideal species to include in any wetland restoration/conservation or wetland ecosystem generation project. It can also be employed with wastewater treatment applications and in riparian buffers. Soft Stem Rush provides food and shelter for many birds and other wildlife species. In addition, many waterfowl and songbirds and smaller animals including jackrabbits, cottontails, muskrats, porcupines, and gophers eat the seeds. Muskrats also use Juncus species, among others for hut construction. Planting plugs is the surest way to establish a new stand of this species. It flowers between late May through August and occasionally into September.  Seeds need light, moisture and heat for germination and this can be undertaken in a grenhouse.  Keep in mind that seedlings cannot withstand long periods without water in a greenhouse environment.  The seeds begin to germinate in around 1 week. Seeding is most successful in the early summer after water levels and spring storms have subsided and can be planted at the edge of a pond or in standing water up to 6” deep and prefers partial shade. Fluctuating water levels during establishment periods can assist in speeding up the spread of this rush if required. Soft Stem Rushes generally mature in the late summer and grow to a height of about two and a half feet although it can reach five feet a height of five feet. Juncus effusus is one the most productive of the freshwater wetland species. An interesting aside is that Soft Stem Rush stems were used from ancient times through to the early 1900s, to create inexpensive, candle-like lights called "rushlights". Rushlights were popular because they were a free lighting source rather than a superior one. These lights were made by peeling the stems off and soaking the inner pith in animal fat, grease or wax.  Of all the rushes, Juncus effusus were reportedly the best. If you’re planning a water garden choosing evergreen plants such as Soft Stem Rush in conjunction with sedges, sweet flag, and winter-blooming varieties including Water Hawthorne, will enable you to enjoy a fully planted garden or pond year-round. Likewise, as Soft Stem Rush is relatively tall and forms dense colonies, it’s able to provide substantial cover and nesting environment for wetland birds and other wildlife. Finally it’s an ideal plant in wetland conservation, restoration or creation projects and as a plant to help control erosion and accelerate sediment accretion. [TABLE=55]

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