Ethnobotanic: Coiled basketry prevails in Southern California, with the mottled yellowish brown of soft rush providing a natural colored and variegated background (Turnbaugh and Turnbaugh 1986). Juncus stems are used in the coiled baskets of Southern California tribes such as the Cahuilla, Luiseño, Chumash, Diegueño, Agua Caliente, Gabrieliño, Juaneño, Death Valley Shoshone, and Fernandeno (Barrows 1967; Murphey 1959). The foundation material is made of Juncus balticus and Juncus effusus, and the sewing material is made of Juncus textilis. The Quinalt of western Washington used soft rush for plaiting tumplines for baskets (Gunther 1973). They also mixed soft rush with cattails to make string. The Snoqualmie used the stalks for tying things.
The early sprouts of soft rush were sometimes eaten raw by the Snoqualmie of Washington (Gunther 1973). Juncus shoots were eaten raw, roasted in ashes, or boiled by Maidu, Luiseño, and others (Strike 1994). Owens Valley Paiute ate the seeds. Soft rush stalks were gathered in wetlands and were eaten on occasion by the Nlaka'pamux and Lillooet people of British Columbia (Kunlein and Turner 1991).
Soft rush, also called candle rush by the Japanese, is used for tatami mats. Large mats were also made by
California Indians by piercing holes in Juncus and threading cordage through the holes so the Juncus stalks were aligned side-by-side (Strike 1994). These flexible mats could be rolled and stored when not needed.
Wildlife: A wide range of mammal and avian species depend on Juncus species for food and habitat (Hoag and Zierke 1998). Waterfowl, songbirds, and small mammals such as jack rabbits, cottontail, muskrat, porcupine, and gophers (Martin 1951) eat rush seeds. Rushes provide habitat for amphibians and spawning areas for fish. Muskrats feed on the rootstalks of soft rush, and various wetland wading birds find shelter among the stems.
Livestock: Cattle will graze Juncus effusus late in the season after more palatable plants are eaten. Rushes tend to be resistant to grazing pressure and fairly unpalatable to cattle, so tend to increase in species composition in pastures.
Erosion & Restoration: Rushes provide the following conservation uses: erosion control, sediment accretion and stabilization, nutrient uptake and transformation, wildlife food and cover, restoration and creation of wetland ecosystems, and wastewater treatment applications (constructed wetlands). The rhizomatous nature, nitrogen fixation capabilities, dense root system, and phenotypic plasticity to flooding and drought stress provide high soil and slope stabilization capabilities, particularly in areas with flooded soils or fluctuating hydrology. The rhizomes form a matrix for many beneficial bacteria, making this plant an excellent addition for wastewater treatment. This species can have invasive characteristics in certain situations.
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