Narrow-leaved Cattail

Typha angustifolia

Typhaceae - Cattail Family

Narrow-leaved cattail is a native North American wetland species.1 It is a perennial that grows in aquatic, freshwater areas. This species can grow between 3-6 feet tall, and it has long, flat, narrow leaves that grow 2-5 feet in the springtime. Narrow-leaved cattail’s velvety, brown flowers bloom in the mid summer (May-July). These fuzzy inflorescences grow from 2-6 inches long and have a gap between the upper male and lower female flowers.2

Narrow-leaved cattail reproduces by seeds and rapidly spreading rhizomes.2 Wind is the main pollinator of this species.3 One plant can produce approximately 250,000 seeds, which remain viable for up to 100 years.2 These seeds thrive in damp soil or shallow water containing the proper nutrients; however, if the water is too deep (3-4 feet above the shoots), then the growth is slowed.1 Ideal growing areas for Narrow-leaved cattails include sunny wetlands, lakeshores, ditches, bogs, etc. 2

This species is intolerant of shade. It grows in most of the fifty states excluding Texas, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Utah, Arizona, and Hawaii.2 Dense stands of Narrow-leaved cattail provide cover for many birds and mammals, including waterfowl and muskrats. Most parts of the plant can be eaten - moths feed on all parts of the cattails, while geese and muskrats eat the rootstocks.3 Narrow-leaved cattail is useful for wetland restoration because it is a strong nutrient pump, absorbing nitrogen and phosphorus that can otherwise stimulate algal growth. However, it is an aggressive plant and needs to be carefully managed so that it does not outcompete other species.4

References and Useful Websites:
1Invasive Plants - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
2Invasive Plants - U. S. Forest Serve
3Illinois Wildflowers
4Natural History of the North Woods

This page was prepared by Catherine May, BIO 102, Fall 2011

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