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The Tule ( , Schoenoplectus acutus, syn. Scirpus acutus, Schoenoplectus lacustris, Scirpus lacustris subsp. acutus), also known as the common tule, hardstem tule, tule rush, hardstem bulrush, or viscid bulrush, is a giant species of sedge in the plant family Cyperaceae, native to freshwater marshes all over North America. The word derives from the indigenous Mexican word tullin (Nahuatl=bulrush), and was first applied by the early settlers from New Spain who recognized the marsh plants in the Central Valleymarker of Californiamarker as similar to those in the marshes around Mexico Citymarker.

Tules once lined the shores of Tulare Lakemarker, California, formerly the largest freshwater lake in the western United States, until it was drained by land speculators in the twentieth century. The expression "out in the tules" is still common, deriving from the dialect of old Californian families and means "where no one would want to live", with a touch of irony. The phrase is comparable to "out in the boondocks".

It has a thick, rounded green stem growing to tall, with long, grasslike leaves, and radially symmetrical, clustered pale brownish flowers. Tules at shorelines play an important ecological role, helping to buffer against wind and water forces, thereby allowing the establishment of other types of plants and reducing erosion. Tules are sometimes cleared from waterways using herbicides. When erosion occurs, tule rhizomes are replanted in strategic areas.

There are two varieties:
  • Schoenoplectus acutus var. acutus. Northern and eastern North America.
  • Schoenoplectus acutus var. occidentalis. Southwestern North America.

History and Culture

Dyed and woven, tules are used to make baskets, bowls, mats, hats, clothing, duck decoys, and even boats by Native American groups. At least two tribes, the Wanapum and the Pomo people, constructed tule houses as recently as the 1950s and still do for special occasions. Bay Miwok, Coast Miwok, and Ohlone peoples used the tule in the manufacture of canoes or balsa, for transportation across the San Francisco Bay and using the marine and wetland resourses. Northern groups of Chumash used the tule in the manufacture of canoes rather than the sewn-plank tomol usually used by Chumash and used them to gather marine harvests.

It is so common in wetlands in California that several places in the state were named for it, including Tularemarker (a tulare is a tule marsh). Tule Lakemarker is near the Oregon border and includes Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. It was the site of an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during WWII, imprisoning 18,700 people at its peak. The town of Tulelake is northeast of the lake. California also has a Tule River. The Tule Desert is located in Arizona and Nevada. Nevada also has Tule Springs.

California's dense, ground-hugging tule fog is named for the plant, as are the Tule Elk and Tule Perch.

Line notes

  1. P.A. Muntz, 1973
  2. Klar & Jones, 2007
  3. C.M. Hogan, 2008


  • Muntz, Philip A. A California Flora. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1973, copyright 1959
  • Muntz, Philip A. A California Flora: Supplement. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1976 (p. 183 Scirpus lacutris, validus, glaucus.)
  • Jones, Terry L. and Klar, Kathryn California prehistory: colonization, culture, and complexity, Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press, 2007 [151096]
  • C.Michael Hogan (2008) Morro Creek, published by Megalithic Portal, ed. Andy Burnham [151097]

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