Softstem bulrush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani) is the more common of the two species of tules occurring locally, the other being hardstem bulrush (S. acutus). Both species have thick round stems and form tall dense stands at the edge of ponds, often adjacent to cattails. The two species can be difficult to tell apart; one relatively reliable character is the awn at the tip of the overlapping scales of the spikelet. In softstem bulrush, this awn is short (less than 1 mm) and straight, while in hardstem bulrush the awn is often longer, contorted, and/or broken. The scales of softstem bulrush also often have more contrasting midribs, are shinier, and less red-streaked than those of hardstem bulrush.
All species of Schoenoplectus have sometimes been included in a more inclusive Scirpus, and S. tabernaemontani is the currently accepted name for what used to be called S. validus. “Tabernaemontani” is Latin for “table mountain”.