STATION 2. TULE OBSERVATION
bends around the gazebo and joins Mission Creek. This area contains abundant tules or hardstem bulrush, native
and non-native blackberry, and
tule is a rush, with a
characteristic round hollow stem. They
provide an important cover and nesting places for waterfowl, songbirds,
raccoons, and muskrats.
tule seeds are a source of food for
those animals as well early people. The
Ohlone cooked the new shoots and ground the seeds into meal.
The roots were ground into mush. Flour
from its pollen which they would make a pancake type bread.
Tule houses were
common in many parts of California. Tules
stems can be braided into a strong rope. Tules were interwoven into a framework of willow poles to
create dwellings that were well insulated and rain proof. Canoes of tule stems bound together with vines could be used
for hunting and transportation. Shredded
tules along with cattails were used for diapers and bedding.
Ohlones also used them to make sleeping mats,
dolls, toys, and baskets. Early
nursery owners in the Fremont area used tules to protect flowers during
Although there are
two native tules in California, the dominant species at Stivers is the hardstem
bulrush (Scirpus acutus Bigelow). The California bulrush
(Scirpus californicus Meyer)
has more spikelets than the hardstem bulrush and a more triangular stem.
LESSON. Identification of tules -
Ask the students to locate the tules or hardstem bulrush.
Point out the thin stems and the spike at the top.
Take a tule (only two per
class) and cut it in several pieces so the students can see the hollow
structure of the stem. They
might want to put this in a plastic bag that they are using for a scavenger
hunt. Airspaces make the tules an
excellent material for boat making. The
lightness helped it to float. Notice
the waterproof covering of the stem that important to shed water on the roofs of
their homes. During the winter
tules dry out and become dormant.
During the fall it is OK to cut the tules and have the students try and
braid them, or twist them into cord.
LESSON. Contrast blackberries with poison oak - There are both
native and non-native blackberries in the area.
Contrast the 5-leaflet
Himalayan blackberry (non-native) with the 3-leaflet native blackberry.
The non- native is very aggressive and needs to be cut back in this area
to allow native vegetation to grow.
Point out to
students the difference between poison oak and the native blackberry leaves.
Go over the shape by showing examples.
During the fall, the poison oak will turn reddish and is easy to
identify. The vines however can be
recognized by their thin stem and shots that are arranged in a spiral manner.
The blackberries in this area keep their leaves throughout the year, but
the vines are thorny unlike the poison oak.
LESSON. Historic Importance of
tules to local people - Discuss with students the importance of tules
to the Ohlone Indians. Go over the
properties of tules (light, rope like, easy to cut, waterproof) and have the
students think of ways in which the tules could be used.
Donít forget to show the students the spikes which the Indians used as
flour to make food.
LESSON. Habitats created by tules -
Not only did people use the tules,
but they provided habitat for wetland organisms.
Tules provide protection
from predators as birds and small animals hide in them and food for different
animals. Ask students to describe
the wetland habitat, including the mud and stems.
Go over the different organisms that might hide in the tules and what
they would do there. If you have hand lenses or microscopes you may want
students to look at the tules under the microscope and maybe take samples of the
LESSON. How tules clean water - Tules clean the water as they take up nitrates and phosphates from the water. The rhizomes (root structure) are saturated with water all the time, so it successfully filters pollutants from the water and incorporates it into the stems.