Common Cattail


Common Cattail, Typha latifolia


Take a look at the cattails nearby. Are they showing their autumn fluff, strong reedy stalks, or tender spring shoots? Depending on the season, which part of this plant would you harvest and how could you use it?


Cattails (or Typha) are an iconic plant in nearly every wetland in the Northern Hemisphere. Many people know them for hot-dog shaped seed clusters that eventually turn to fluff and blow away in the wind. They grow near the edges of ponds, lakes, or rivers, and can reach heights of 9ft tall. Humans have many uses for them, including cooking, fuel, weaving, or organic insulation for homes — Native Americans even used cattail fluff as diapers and bedding. If harvested at the right time, the plant can be broken down and cooked into pancakes!


Cattails also play an important role in providing wetland nesting habitat and removing toxins from waterways. Because of  their preferred habitat, however, they are at risk in the coming future. Warming temperatures associated with climate change are predicted to evaporate many wetlands and potentially destroy the homes of cattails around the world. On the bright side, they are a notoriously hardy plant, and humans have a hard time getting rid of them when they grow too abundant. Do you think this plant could adapt to live in warmer, drier habitats?

Winter cattails at ALNC

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