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 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, 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
2 General ecology
3 Accepted species and natural hybrids
4.1 Chair seating
4.2 Culinary uses
4.4 Building material
4.8 Other uses
6 External links
Typha 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
Typha 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.
Typha 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, 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
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 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
Typha 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.
Accepted species and natural hybrids
The following names are currently accepted:
Typha albida – (Afghanistan)
Typha alekseevii – (Caucasus)
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)
Typha kalatensis – (Iran)
Typha latifolia – common cattail – (very widespread)
Typha laxmannii – Laxman's bulrush – (southern
Europe and much of
Typha lugdunensis – (western Europe, southwest Asia, China)
Typha minima – dwarf bulrush – (Europe, Asia)
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)
Typha at the edge of a small wetland in Indiana
Typha latifolia (蒲, gama) in Japan
Typha 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. 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 roots may also be boiled, steamed, fried, or mashed with butter or
sour cream much like potatoes.
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
For local tribes around
Lake Titicaca in
Peru and Bolivia,
among the most important plants and every part of the plant had
multiple uses. For example, they were used to construct rafts and
During World War II, the
United States Navy
United States Navy used the down of
a substitute for kapok in life vests and aviation jackets. Tests
showed that even after 100 hours of submersion the buoyancy was still
Typha are used as thermal insulation in buildings as an organic
alternative to conventional insulating materials such as glass wool or
Typha 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.
Typha 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[which?] 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.
Typha 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
Cattail pollen is used as a banker source of food for predatory
insects and mites (such as Amblyseius swirskii) in greenhouses.
^ "World Checklist of Selected
Plant Families: Royal Botanic Gardens,
^ Clegg, J. (1986). Observer's Book of Pond Life. Frederick Warne,
London. 460 p.
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):
doi:10.1073/pnas.1006993107. PMC 2973873 .
Stace, C. A.
Stace, C. A. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles (Third ed.).
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
^ 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,
^ a b c Keddy, P. A. (2010).
Wetland Ecology: Principals and
Conservation. Cambridge University Press. p. 497.
^ 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 TEMPeffects 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
Typha angustifolia and
Typha latifolia in a constructed
wetland" (PDF). Aquatic Botany. 78 (4): 361–369.
^ a b c d Morton, J. F. (January–March 1975). "Cattails (
– Weed Problem or Potential Crop?". Economic Botany. 29 (1): 7–29.
^ 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:
^ Elias, T. S.; Dykeman, P. A. (2009) . Edible Wild Plants. New
York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. pp. 69–70.
^ Raupo or
Typha orientalis). Tai Awatea. Accessed 15
^ 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 (
biomass in Minnesota, USA. Biomass 17(2) 79–104.
^ Maiden, J. H. (1889). Useful Native Plants of
Tasmania). Sydney: Technological Mus. New South Wales.
^ Heidi Wollaeger (January 20, 2015). "Applying pollen over a crop as
an alternative food source for predatory mites". Michigan State
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Typha.
Can you actually eat cattails? from The Straight Dope
Cereals and pseudocereals
Neolithic founder crops
History of agriculture
Tell Abu Hureyra
Crop wild relative