Flora of Scotts Creek Watershed
Typha latifolia - Cattail
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Family Name: Typhaceae
Common Names: Cattail, Broad-Leaved Cattail, Common Cattail, Soft Flag
Origin: Native to California
Habitat: Where soil remains wet, saturated, or flooded for most of growing season. In fresh water or slightly brackish marshes. Below 2000 m.
Life Form and Duration: Perennial Herb, 1.5-3 m
Comments on overall growth: Stem erect, fleshy, stiff, unbranched, tapers towards top. Grows from rhizomes, monoecious. Long tall leaves and distinctive fruiting spike.
Foliage Description: Alternate, basal, growing erect. 12-16 leaves per plant, 1-3 cm wide, 1-3 m long (generally not taller than the spike), pale grayish-green, open sheath tapering to blade, lower portions C-shaped in cross-section, upper portions toward tip flat in cross-section, spongy center.
Infloresence Description: Spike-like, cylindric, dense, towards top of stem, at same height as leaves, 2-25 cm long, green turning to brown when in fruit. More than 1000 minute flowers per spike, staminate flowers above pistillate, not separated by space between the two types.
Flower Description: Each flower is subtended by a minute bract. Staminate flowers are mixed with papery scales, lacking perianth, is 2-7 stamens on a slender stalk, bractlets are simple, whitish, and hair like, minute, deciduous once pistillate flowers in fruit. Pistillate flowers lacking perianth as well, ovary on short peg-like long-haired stalks.
Flowering Season: June-July
Fruit Type: Achene
Fruit Description: Thin walled, light brown, splitting in water to release numerous minute seeds.
Plant Use: "Foliage as cover for deer and birds. Leaves and stems have historically been used around the world as bedding, thatching, matting, and in manufacturing baskets and other items. Rhizomes, young stems, and immature spikes are edible and were used by Native Americans, currently they are still considered delicacies by some. "
Other Comments: "A colonial species - growing together forms dense, nearly single species communities."