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Typha latifolia

Common Name: Common Cattail
Family: Typhaceae

Entry Author:  J. Rogers and C. Westring
Description:   Native perennial herb growing to 3 meters in height.  Plays an important role in the reduction of pollution by absorbing excess nitrogen and phosphorus. 
Upright leaves arising from base or alternating along the stem.  Bluish or grayish green, flat, approximately 2.5 cm wide. Veins run parallel through the leaves 
Flowers are arranged in two connected spikes. Male, staminate,  flowers (top spike) are of a light brown to white color.  Female, pistillate,  flowers (bottom spike) are darker in color and create a much wider spike
Tiny seeds possessing a cottony "parachute" designed to float along water and air; arranged around the spike as if spokes of a wheel   
Stem:  Erect, 2 cm in diameter in the middle, tapering to 1 cm near flower structure
Branching Pattern:
Height:  1-2.7 meters tall
Conditions/Habitat/Kind of Forest: Fresh marshes and shallow wet areas;  normally thrive in basic waters (> pH 7)
Range:  Across much of the U.S. excluding the Rocky Mountain states and the Southwest.  Also found throughout Eurasia and Northern Africa
Hardiness Zone: USDA zones 3-10
Conservation Status-US/ World Wide: Common
Uses (Human):  Shoots and flowers can be eaten; pollen can be mixed w/ flour for high protein; rhizome may be cooked and eaten like a potato; young spikes are used to make medicinal tea; young leaves are used as salad greens.  


Chadde, Steve W.  A Great Lakes Wetland Flora (2nd ed.).  Michigan: PocketFlora Press, 2002.

Laurentian Center Plant Key.  2000.  Laurentian Environmental Center.  Accessed:  November 29, 2005.<>

Redington, Charles B.  Plants in Wetlands.  Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1994.

Rook, E.  Aquatic Plants of the North: Typha latifolia.   February 26, 2004.  Accessed: November 29, 2005.  <>

United States Department of Agriculture.
Common Weeds of the United States.  New York: Dover Publications, 1971. 

This page was created by: J. Chichester, Northampton Community College, and K. Rice and C. Westring, Muhlenberg College
Last updated 12/21/05