Typha latifolia

broadleaf cattail, cattail, common cattail, broad-leaved cat-tail, broad-leaf cat-tail, common cat-tail, tule espadilla


Leaf Arrangement


Leaf Margin


Leaf Type


Growth Form

forb, emergent aquatic, aquatic

Flower Color

brown, green

Flower Month

March - November

Height (meters)

0.9 - 3.0

Milky Sap








Growing Season

Warm season

Wetland Class


Wetland Coefficient of Conservatism


Prairie Coefficient of Conservatism


Field Characters

Veins embedded, not clearly visible. Leaves more than 1” wide, leaves convex on back. In Typha latifolia the male and female inflorescences (spikes) are not separated by an interval (see photo). There is an interval in both T. domingensis and T. angustifolia.

Cultural Information

To clean large quantities of Typha seed the method developed by Yeo (1964) is effective. Remove seeds from the spike into a bag. Empty the bag into a tub and spray the seeds with a jet of water under 100-150 lbs. of pressure. The seeds are separated from the down and sink to the bottom. Most of the down can be skimmed from the surface. The seeds can then be screened to remove the rest of the debris. Seeds germinate easily when the seed coat is nicked or the "cap" at the blunt end of the seed is cracked or removed (Crocker 1907, Morinaga 1926, Sifton 1959). If the seed coat is intact, lower oxygen pressure, light and alternating temperatures improve germination rates (Morinage 1926). The optimum temperature for germination is 86 F (30 C) (Sifton 1959). Seed can germinate when 30" below water, and the seedlings grow to the surface (Yeo 1964). Seed remains viable for at least 5 years when stored dry at room temperature (Crocker 1938). Cattails are also easily propagated by cuttings taken from rhizomes at any time. Dividing clumps or removing crowns from rhizomes and transplanting may can be done during the growing season.

Natural History

Found in shallow water throughout most of Louisiana and Texas. It ranges throughout the United States from Canada to Mexico. It was used by Acadians to cane chairs and was called "queue de rat" or "rat-tail." It is also known by the Acadian French names "queue de chat" (cattail) and "jonc au baril" (barrel rush) (Holmes 1990). It has been called the supermarket of the swamp because of its many uses. The downy seeds produced during the fall were used as a replacement for capoke to fill life jackets during World War II. The unpollinated female spike may be eaten after boiling. The roots are full of starch which can be removed by twisting peeled roots under cold water then allowing the starch to settle. After the water is decanted off the remaining starch makes a excellent flour. The tender white stalks at the base of the leaves are edible and are known as Cawsack asparagus in Europe. The leaves can be used to make mats and baskets and American Indians are reported to have used the flower stalks as arrow shafts (Chase 1965).


Marshes, shallow water, along streams, lakes, ponds, river banks, and wet ditches.