Cattails

Native to Northern Hemisphere

Cattail (Typha latifolia) is one of the most common and easily identified bog plants. Named for its brown, hot-dog or cigar shaped flower spikes, it is also commonly known as punk, corndog grass, cigar, candlewick, ducktail and marsh beetle. A member of the Typhaceae family, Cattail is widespread throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Its grows well anywhere there is sun and very moist soil, such as in marshes, swamps, ponds or lakes, along riverbanks, even in ditches or pools of stagnant shallow water.

Cattail has roots that creep called rhizomes that grow in thick stands. Its slender stiff stalks grow almost 10’ tall with leaves like huge blades of grass that are 1” wide. The flower has two parts: a brown cylinder seed head (the female part) and a yellow spike (the male part). Cattail flowers from May to July, then the brown flower heads open in early fall to release thousands of tiny white seeds that disperse with the wind. Because it is easy to harvest and all parts of the plant are edible, cattail was a major staple for American Indians. Cattail shoots (which taste similar to tender zucchini or cucumber) are highly nutritious, containing beta carotene, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamin and vitamin C. Indians also used cattail medicinally (applying the jelly from the leaves to burns, sores, and wounds), as a tinder for their campfires (the smoke from burning the seed heads also deterred insects), and in crafting (twisting the dried leaves into baskets, chair pads, dolls and toys, and using the fluffy seeds as stuffing for moccasins and pillows).

Growing Recommendations - Cattail

Though it is considered a weed in some areas, cattail is still a very useful plant today. Its thick root systems provide filter runoff and prevent erosion of waterways. An adhesive glue is produced from its stems and nutrient supplements from various plant parts. Its pollen is used in some fireworks. The plants themselves are an integral part of any water garden and, in the wild, they provide cover for many animals.

Photos of Cattails

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