The Info List - Cattail

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TYPHA /ˈtaɪfə/ is a genus of about 30 species of monocotyledonous flowering plants in the family Typhaceae
. These plants have many common names, in British English
British English
as BULRUSH, or REEDMACE, in American English as CATTAIL, PUNKS, or CORN DOG GRASS, in Australia
as CUMBUNGI or BULRUSH, in Canada
as BULRUSH or CATTAIL, and in New Zealand as RAUPō. Other taxa of plants may be known as bulrush , including some sedges in Scirpus
and related genera.

The genus is largely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
, where it is found in a variety of wetland habitats.

The rhizomes are edible. Evidence of preserved starch grains on grinding stones suggests they were already eaten in Europe
30,000 years ago.


* 1 Description * 2 General ecology * 3 Accepted species and natural hybrids

* 4 Uses

* 4.1 Chair seating * 4.2 Culinary uses * 4.3 Agriculture * 4.4 Building material * 4.5 Paper
* 4.6 Fiber * 4.7 Biofuel * 4.8 Other uses

* 5 References * 6 External links


are aquatic or semi-aquatic, rhizomatous, herbaceous perennial plants . :925 The leaves are glabrous (hairless), linear, alternate and mostly basal on a simple, jointless stem that bears the flowering spikes. The plants are monoecious , with unisexual flowers that develop in dense racemes . The numerous male flowers form a narrow spike at the top of the vertical stem. Each male (staminate) flower is reduced to a pair of stamens and hairs, and withers once the pollen is shed. Large numbers of tiny female flowers form a dense, sausage -shaped spike on the stem below the male spike. In larger species this can be up to 30 centimetres (12 in) long and 1 to 4 centimetres (0.4 to 2 in) thick. The seeds are minute, 0.2 millimetres (0.008 in) long, and attached to fine hairs. When ripe, the heads disintegrate into a cottony fluff from which the seeds disperse by wind .


are often among the first wetland plants to colonize areas of newly exposed wet mud, with their abundant wind dispersed seeds. Buried seeds can survive in the soil for long periods of time. They germinate best with sunlight and fluctuating temperatures, which is typical of many wetland plants that regenerate on mud flats. The plants also spread by rhizomes, forming large, interconnected stands.

are considered to be dominant competitors in wetlands in many areas, and they often exclude other plants with their dense canopy. In the bays of the Great Lakes
Great Lakes
, for example, they are among the most abundant wetland plants. Different species of cattails are adapted to different water depths.

Well-developed aerenchyma make the plants tolerant of submersion. Even the dead stalks are capable of transmitting oxygen to the rooting zone.

Although Typha
are native wetland plants, they can be aggressive in their competition with other native species. They have been problematic in many regions in North America, from the Great Lakes
Great Lakes
to the Everglades
. Native sedges are displaced and wet meadows shrink, likely as a response to altered hydrology of the wetlands and increased nutrient levels. An introduced or hybrid species may be contributing to the problem. Control is difficult. The most successful strategy appears to be mowing or burning to remove the aerenchymous stalks, followed by prolonged flooding. It may be more important to prevent invasion by preserving water level fluctuations, including periods of drought, and to maintain infertile conditions.

are frequently eaten by wetland mammals such as muskrats , that also use them to construct feeding platforms and dens, providing nesting and resting places for waterfowl.


The following names are currently accepted:

* Typha albida – (Afghanistan) * Typha alekseevii – ( Caucasus
) * Typha angustifolia
Typha angustifolia
– lesser bulrush, narrow leaf cattail (America), or jambu (India) * Typha × argoviensis – (Germany and Switzerland) * Typha austro-orientalis – (European Russia) * Typha azerbaijanensis – (Iran) * Typha × bavarica – (Germany) * Typha capensis – (tropical and southern Africa) * Typha caspica – ( Azerbaijan
) * Typha changbaiensis – (northeastern China) * Typha davidiana – (China) * Typha domingensis – bulrush, southern cattail (America), narrow-leaved cumbungi (Australia) * Typha elephantina – (from Algeria to southern China) * Typha × gezei – (France) * Typha
× glauca (T. angustifolia × T. latifolia) – hybrid cattail, white cattail (a sterile hybrid ) * Typha grossheimii – (Central Asia) * Typha incana – (central Russia) * Typha joannis – (Mongolia, Amur Oblast
Amur Oblast
) * Typha kalatensis – (Iran) * Typha latifolia – common cattail – (very widespread) * Typha laxmannii – Laxman's bulrush – (southern Europe
and much of Asia) * Typha lugdunensis – (western Europe, southwest Asia, China) * Typha minima
Typha minima
– dwarf bulrush – (Europe, Asia) * Typha orientalis
Typha orientalis
– (East Asia, Australia, New Zealand) * Typha pallida – (Central Asia, China) * Typha × provincialis – (France) * Typha przewalskii – (China, Russian Far East) * Typha shuttleworthii – (Europe, Iran, Turkey) * Typha sistanica – (Iran) * Typha × smirnovii – (European Russia) * Typha subulata – (Argentina, Uruguay) * Typha × suwensis – (Japan) * Typha tichomirovii – (European Russia) * Typha turcomanica – ( Turkmenistan
) * Typha tzvelevii – ( Primorye ) * Typha valentinii – ( Azerbaijan
) * Typha varsobica – ( Tajikistan

at the edge of a small wetland in Indiana Typha latifolia (蒲, gama) in Japan
in art. Bruno Piglhein , Hirtenknabe ("Shepherd Boy").

The most widespread species is Typha
latifolia, which is distributed across the entire temperate northern hemisphere. It has also been introduced to Australia. T. angustifolia is nearly as widespread, but does not extend as far north; it may be introduced and invasive in North America
North America
. T. domingensis has a more southern American distribution, and it occurs in Australia. T. orientalis is widespread in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. T. laxmannii, T. minima, and T. shuttleworthii are largely restricted to Asia
and southern Europe



The rushes are harvested and the leaves often dried for later use in chair seats. Re-wetted, the leaves are twisted and wrapped around the chair rungs to form a densely woven seat that is then stuffed (usually with the left over rush).


Many parts of the Typha
plant are edible to humans. The starchy rhizomes are nutritious with a protein content comparable to that of maize or rice. They can be processed into a flour with 266 kcal per 100 grams. They are most often harvested from late autumn to early spring. They are fibrous, and the starch must be scraped or sucked from the tough fibers. Plants growing in polluted water can accumulate lead and pesticide residues in their rhizomes, and these should not be eaten.

The outer portion of young plants can be peeled and the heart can be eaten raw or boiled and eaten like asparagus . This food has been popular among the Cossacks
in Russia, and has been called "Cossack asparagus". The leaf bases can be eaten raw or cooked, especially in late spring when they are young and tender. In early summer the sheath can be removed from the developing green flower spike, which can then be boiled and eaten like corn on the cob . In mid-summer when the male flowers are mature, the pollen can be collected and used as a flour supplement or thickener.


The seeds have a high linoleic acid content and can be used to feed cattle and chickens. They can also be found in African countries like Ghana.


For local tribes around Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca
in Peru
and Bolivia
, Typha were among the most important plants and every part of the plant had multiple uses. For example, they were used to construct rafts and other boats.

During World War II
World War II
, the United States Navy
United States Navy
used the down of Typha as a substitute for kapok in life vests and aviation jackets. Tests showed that even after 100 hours of submersion the buoyancy was still effective.

are used as thermal insulation in buildings as an organic alternative to conventional insulating materials such as glass wool or stone wool .


stems and leaves can be used to make paper . It is strong with a heavy texture and it is hard to bleach, so it is not suitable for industrial production of graphical paper. In 1853, considerable amounts of cattail paper were produced in New York , due to a shortage of raw materials. In 1948, French scientists tested methods for annual harvesting of the leaves. Because of the high cost these methods were abandoned and no further research was done. Today Typha is used to make decorative paper.


Fibers up to 4 meters long can be obtained from the stems when they are mechanically or chemically treated with sodium hydroxide . The stem fibers resemble jute and can be used to produce raw textiles. The leaf fibers can be used as an alternative to cotton and linen in clothing. The yield of leaf fiber is 30 to 40 percent and Typha
glauca can produce 7 to 10 tons per hectare annually.


can be used as a source of starch to produce ethanol . Because of their high productivity in northern latitudes, Typha
are considered to be a bioenergy crop .


The seed hairs were used by some Indigenous peoples of the Americas
as tinder for starting fires. Some tribes also used Typha
down to line moccasins , and for bedding, diapers, baby powder, and cradleboards . One Native American word for Typha
meant "fruit for papoose's bed". Typha
down is still used in some areas to stuff clothing items and pillows.

can be dipped in wax or fat and then lit as a candle, the stem serving as a wick. Without the use of wax or fat it will smolder slowly, somewhat like incense , and may repel insects.

One informal experiment has indicated that Typha
are able to remove arsenic from drinking water. The boiled rootstocks have been used as a diuretic for increasing urination, or mashed to make a jelly-like paste for sores, boils, wounds, burns, scabs, and smallpox pustules.


* ^ "World Checklist of Selected Plant
Families: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew". kew.org. * ^ Clegg, J. (1986). Observer's Book of Pond Life. Frederick Warne, London. 460 p. * ^ "Typha". Natural Resources Conservation Service
Natural Resources Conservation Service
PLANTS Database. USDA . Retrieved 12 December 2015. * ^ A B Revedin, A.; et al. (2010). "Thirty thousand-year-old evidence of plant food processing" . Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 107 (44): 18815–18819. Bibcode :2010PNAS..10718815R. PMC 2973873  . PMID 20956317 . doi :10.1073/pnas.1006993107 . * ^ Stace, C. A.
Stace, C. A.
(2010). New Flora of the British Isles (Third ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521707725 . * ^ van der Valk, A. G. and Davis, C. B. (1976). The seed banks of prairie glacial marshes. Canadian Journal of Botany 54, 1832–8. * ^ Shipley, B., et al. (1989). Regeneration and establishment strategies of emergent macrophytes. Journal of Ecology 77, 1093–1110. * ^ A B C Keddy, P. A. (2010). Wetland
Ecology: Principles and Conservation. Cambridge University Press. p. 497. ISBN 978-0-521-51940-3 . * ^ Grace, J. B. and Wetzel, R. G. (1981). Habitat partitioning and competitive displacement in cattails (Typha): experimental field studies. The American Naturalist 118, 463–74. * ^ Oudhia, P. (1999). Allelopathic effects of Typha
angustata on germination and seedling vigour of winter maize and rice. Agric. Sci. Digest 19(4): 285-286 * ^ Boers, A. M., et al. (2007). Typha
× glauca dominance and extended hydroperiod constrain restoration of wetland diversity. Ecological Engineering 29, 232–44. * ^ Kaminski, R. M., et al. (1985). Control of cattail and bulrush by cutting and flooding. In: Coastal Wetlands, eds. H. H. Prince and F. M. D’Itri, pp. 253–62. Chelsea, MI: Lewis Publishers. * ^ Global Invasive Species
Database: "Uses"- Retrieved 2017-03-20 * ^ "Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant
Families, genus Typha". Retrieved 18 September 2014. * ^ Selbo, S. M.; Snow, A. A. (2004). "The potential for hybridization between Typha angustifolia
Typha angustifolia
and Typha latifolia in a constructed wetland" (PDF). Aquatic Botany. 78 (4): 361–369. doi :10.1016/j.aquabot.2004.01.003 . * ^ A B C D Morton, J. F. (January–March 1975). "Cattails (Typha spp.) – Weed Problem or Potential Crop?". Economic Botany. 29 (1): 7–29. doi :10.1007/bf02861252 . * ^ Gore, A. B. (2007). Environmental Research at the Leading Edge. New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc. p. 106. * ^ Marsh, L. C. (1959). "The Cattail Story". The Garden Journal. 5: 114–129. * ^ Elias, T. S.; Dykeman, P. A. (2009) . Edible Wild Plants. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. pp. 69–70. ISBN 978-1-4027-6715-9 . * ^ Raupo or Bulrush
( Typha
orientalis). Tai Awatea. Accessed 15 December 2011. * ^ Reed, E.; Marsh, L. C. (1955). "The Cattail Potential". Chemurgic Digest. 3. 14: 9, 18. access-date= requires url= (help ) * ^ Miller, D. T. (1999). Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest, Including Recipes, Harmful Plants, Natural Dyes, and Textile Fibers: A Practical Guide. Austin: University of Texas Press. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-292-78164-1 . * ^ Making Aquatic Weeds Useful: Some Perspectives for Developing Countries. Ottawa: National Research Council.: Books for Business. 1976. p. 101. ISBN 0-89499-180-9 . * ^ Dubbe, D. R., et al. (1988). Production of cattail ( Typha
spp.) biomass in Minnesota, USA. Biomass 17(2) 79–104. * ^ Maiden, J. H. (1889). Useful Native Plants of Australia
(incl. Tasmania). Sydney: Technological Mus. New South Wales.


Wikimedia Commons has media related to TYPHA .

* Can you actually eat cattails? from The Straight Dope