Tule is a common name applied to various species of marshland grasses and reeds. Of these, the most common is the Common Tule (Schoenoplectus acutus). The term “tule” applies to species such as the common cattail, bulrushes and other similar grassy plants. As a group, tules were extremely useful to the Indians of Nevada and the Great Basin, specifically the Washoe, Paiute, and Shoshone.
Tules were extremely useful in the lives of the Indian people who used them. These versatile grasses and reeds could be used to make watercraft, baskets, mats, and duck decoys, as well as many other items. Because tules grow to fairly large heights, they can be cut at varying lengths depending on the intended use.
Various tules had seeds that were collected that could be ground into flour, using stone metates and hullers. The roots of tules can be eaten either cooked or raw.
Tules can grow to heights between 8 and 10 feet. They are perennial and generally grow abundantly in wet, marshland areas. Some varieties create thick, dense walls of grasses around lakes or ponds and are found below the elevation of 7,500 feet.
The term “tule” was derived from the Aztec word “tullin,” which designated the group of plants including the common cattail, bulrushes, and similar plants. The term was used similarly by the Spanish to designate any such marshland plant.