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 achenes of S. tabernaemontani are about 2 mm long, which those of S. acutus are a bit longer. The scales of softstem bulrush also often have more contrasting midribs than those of hardstem bulrush; they are also purportedly shinier and less red-streaked, but this is not clearly evident locally.
All species of Schoenoplectus have sometimes been included in a more inclusive Scirpus, and Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani is the currently accepted name for what used to be called Scirpus validus. “Tabernaemontani” is Latin for “table mountain”.