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
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
* 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
* 4.6 Fiber
* 4.7 Biofuel
* 4.8 Other uses
* 5 References
* 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 wind .
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
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.
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 – (
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 – (
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
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 – (
Typha tzvelevii – (
Typha valentinii – (
Typha varsobica – (
Typha at the edge of a small wetland in Indiana Typha
latifolia (蒲, gama) in
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
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
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
For local tribes around
Lake Titicaca in
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
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
Typha are used as thermal insulation in buildings as an organic
alternative to conventional insulating materials such as glass wool or
stone wool .
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
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
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
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 pustules.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to TYPHA .
* Can you actually eat cattails? from The Straight Dope