Cattail - Typha latifolia

"Typha latifolia is a PERENNIAL growing to 2.5 m (8ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a fast rate."
"It is hardy to zone (UK) 3. It is in flower from Jun to August. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.It is noted for attracting wildlife." [PFAF]
"Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers wet soil and can grow in water." [PFAF]

Origin Status: Native [E-flora]
Family: Typhaceae (Cat-tail family) [E-flora]
General: Perennial herb from tough, extensive rhizomes; stems erect, simple, hard, pithy, 100-300 cm tall. [IFBC-E-flora]
Leaves: Sheaths tapered to blades, sometimes veined; blades flat, 8-20 mm wide. [IFBC-E-flora]
Flowers: Inflorescence a densely crowded, terminal, cylindrical spike; female and male portions of the spikes usually contiguous; the female portion below, brown, 12-30 mm wide, the male portion above, slightly wider than the female; female flowers not subtended by a bract; stigmas lanceolate to egg-shaped; pollen grains in groups of four. [IFBC-E-flora]
Fruits: Follicles, dry, dehiscent, ellipsoid, long-hairy, about 1 mm long. [IFBC-E-flora]
USDA Flower Colour: Brown
USDA Blooming Period: Late spring
USDA Fruit/Seed characteristics:

Habitat & Range
Habitat: Wet ditches, ponds, lakeshores and marshes in the lowland, steppe and montane zones.[IFBC-E-flora]
Shallow water up to 15cm deep in ponds, lakes, ditches, slow-flowing streams etc, succeeding in acid or alkaline conditions[9, 17]. [PFAF]
Range: common in S BC, less frequent in NE BC; circumpolar, N to AK, YT an NT, E to NF and S to ME, MA, PA, NC, FL, MS, LA, TX, NM, AZ, MX and CA; Eurasia, N Africa. [IFBC-E-flora]
Throughout the world from the Arctic to latitude 30° S, incl Britain but absent from Africa, S. Asia. [PFAF]

Quick Notes


Though cattail is considered safe, foragers should be aware that wild iris (iris setosa) frequently inhabits the same vicinity. It's long linear leaves are reminiscent of cattail. Mistaken identity is virtually impossible in summer; confusion (and possible poisoning) could result if harvesting just the rhizome in fall or winter.[Schofield]
Some people notice a slightly unpleasant tingling sensation in the throat a few minutes after eating raw white cattail shoots. Do not eat raw cattails found growing in water whose purity is questionable. [Nyerges]

Food Use

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

In Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival, Brown reports nlbbing the sticky juice found between cattail leaves on his gums at the dentist's as a novocaine substitute. He also recommends the practice for pain relief from toothache.[Schofield]
"The leaves are diuretic[218]. The leaves have been mixed with oil and used as a poultice on sores[257]. A decoction of the stems has been used in the treatment of whooping cough[257]." [PFAF]

Other Ethnobotanical Uses

"Supplying a toothache remedy in an unidentified part of Ireland,47 Typha latifolia was once also in high repute as a cure for epilepsy in the south-western Highlands, under a Gaelic name translating as ‘fairy wives’ spindle’. Evidently more of a charm, though, than a medicine, it was held to be most potent if gathered at Midsummer midnight (with a prescribed ritual) before being wrapped in a shroud—for keeping a dead stem and root of the plant in ‘dead-clothes’ ensured freedom from every ailment for the rest of one’s life.48" [MPFT]


Nutritional Information

CattailTypha latifolia [Turner, Kuhnlein]

Part:GreensPer 100 g fresh weight
Food Energy (Kcal)-Ash (g)-Potassium (mg)367
Water (g)90Thiamine (mg)-Magnesium (mg)44
Protein (g)0.6Riboflavin (mg)-Calcium (mg)51
Fat (g)-Niacin (mg)-Phosphorus (mg)10
Carbohydrate (g)-Vitamin C (mg)-Sodium (mg)2
Chloride (tag)88Vitamin A (RE)-Iron (mg)0.7
Zinc (mg)0.3Manganese (mg)1.7Copper (mg)0.
Part:ShootsPer 100 g fresh weight
Food Energy (Kcal)68Ash (g)1Potassium (mg)367
Water (g)83Thiamine (mg)-Magnesium (mg)31
Protein (g)1.7Riboflavin (mg)0.13Calcium (mg)133
Fat (g)0.7Niacin (mg)-Phosphorus (mg)11
Carbohydrate (g)-Vitamin C (mg)-Sodium (mg)118
Crude Fiber (g)5.7Vitamin A (RE)-Iron (mg)-
Part:Rhizome (dry)Per 100 g weight
Food Energy (Kcal)-Ash (g)2.5Potassium (mg)-
Water (g)9Thiamine (mg)-Magnesium (mg)-
Protein (g)7.7Riboflavin (mg)-Calcium (mg)-
Fat (g)4.9Niacin (mg)-Phosphorus (mg)-
Carbohydrate (g)79.1Vitamin C (mg)-Sodium (mg)-
Part:SeedsPer 100 g fresh weight
Water (g)9Thiamine (mg)-Magnesium (mg)-
Protein (g)7.7Riboflavin (mg)-Calcium (mg)-
Fat (g)4.9Niacin (mg)-Phosphorus (mg)-
Carbohydrate (g)79.1Vitamin C (mg)-Sodium (mg)-
Part:Peeled StemPer 100 g fresh weight
Protein (g)-Riboflavin (mg)0.13Calcium (mg)-
Crude Fiber (g)-Vitamin A (RE)21Iron (mg)-
Part:FlourPer 100 g fresh weight
Food Energy (Kcal)-Ash (g)2.6Potassium (mg)-
Water (g)8Thiamine (mg)-Magnesium (mg)-
Protein (g)6.9Riboflavin (mg)-Calcium (mg)-
Fat (g)3.1Niacin (mg)-Phosphorus (mg)-
Carbohydrate (g)79.7Vitamin C (mg)-Sodium (mg)-
Crude Fiber (g)-Vitamin A (RE)-Iron (mg)-
Zinc (mg)-Manganese (mg)-Copper (mg)-


"A very easily grown plant, succeeding in the boggy margins of ponds or in shallow water up to 15cm deep[17]. It succeeds in acid and calcareous soils and requires a less organic-rich soil than T. angustifolia in order to do well[17]. It succeeds in sun or part shade[200]. A very invasive plant spreading freely at the roots when in a suitable site, it is not suitable for growing in small areas[24]. Unless restrained by some means, such as a large bottomless container, the plant will soon completely take over a site and will grow into the pond, gradually filling it in. This species will often form an almost complete monoculture in boggy soil. Provides excellent cover for wild fowl[1]." [PFAF]


"Seed - surface sow in a pot and stand it in 3cm of water. Pot up the young seedlings as soon as possible and, as the plants develop, increase the depth of water. Plant out in summer. Division in spring. Very easy, harvest the young shoots when they are about 10 - 30cm tall, making sure there is at least some root attached, and plant them out into their permanent positions." [PFAF]


Cattails have also been planted in areas in order to purify the water. For example, in the Florida Everglades where phosphorous-rich fertilizers in the water from farms flow into the Everglades, cattails have been planted in the path of the runoff. The cattails have exceeded all expectations in sucking the phosphorous out of the farm runoff water, so cleaner water can be discharged into the Everglades. [Nyerges]



Page last modified on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 10:11 AM