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Typha latifolia
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Typhaceae
Genus: Typha
Synonyms [1]
  • Massula Dulac
  • Rohrbachia(Kronf. ex Riedl) Mavrodiev
Cattail, narrow leaf shoots
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 106 kJ (25 kcal)
5.14 g
Sugars 0.22 g
Dietary fiber 4.5 g
0.00 g
1.18 g
Vitamins Quantity%DV
Vitamin A equiv.
1 μg
6 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.023 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.025 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.440 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.234 mg
Vitamin B6
0.123 mg
Folate (B9)
3 μg
23.7 mg
Vitamin C
0.7 mg
Vitamin K
22.8 μg
Minerals Quantity%DV
54 mg
0.041 mg
0.91 mg
63 mg
0.760 mg
45 mg
309 mg
0.6 μg
109 mg
0.24 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water92.65 g
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Typha /ˈtfə/ is a genus of about 30 species of monocotyledonous flowering plants in the family Typhaceae. These plants have a variety of common names, in British English as bulrush or reedmace, [2] in American English as reed, wild corn dog, cattail [3] , or punks, in Australia as cumbungi or bulrush, in Canada as bulrush or cattail, and in New Zealand as raupo. 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 Europe 30,000 years ago. [4]


Typha are aquatic or semi-aquatic, rhizomatous, herbaceous perennial plants. [5] :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.

General ecology

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. [6] They germinate best with sunlight and fluctuating temperatures, which is typical of many wetland plants that regenerate on mud flats. [7] 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. [8] 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. [9]

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. [10] They have been problematic in many regions in North America, from the Great Lakes to the Everglades. [8] 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. [11] Control is difficult. The most successful strategy appears to be mowing or burning to remove the aerenchymous stalks, followed by prolonged flooding. [12] It may be more important to prevent invasion by preserving water level fluctuations, including periods of drought, and to maintain infertile conditions. [8]

Typha are frequently eaten by wetland mammals such as muskrats, which also use them to construct feeding platforms and dens, thereby also providing nesting and resting places for waterfowl. [13]

Accepted species and natural hybrids

The following names are currently accepted: [14]

Typha at the edge of a small wetland in Indiana Typha-cattails-in-indiana.jpg
Typha at the edge of a small wetland in Indiana
Typha latifolia (Pu 
, gama) in Japan Typha with-without cotton like seeds.jpg
Typha latifolia ( , gama) in Japan

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.


Chair seating

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).

Culinary uses

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. [16] They can be processed into a flour with 266 kcal per 100 grams. [4] 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. [17]

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". [18] 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. [19] In mid-summer when the male flowers are mature, the pollen can be collected and used as a flour supplement or thickener. [20]

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. [21] They can also be found in African countries like Ghana.

Building material

For local tribes around 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. [16]

During World War II, the 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. [22]

Typha are used as thermal insulation in buildings [23] 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. [24] 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. [16] Today Typha is used to make decorative paper. [25] [26]


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. [16]


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. [27]

Other uses

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". [28] 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 pustules. [29]

Cattail pollen is used as a banker source of food for predatory insects and mites (such as Amblyseius swirskii) in greenhouses. [30]

Related Research Articles

<i>Canna</i> (plant) genus of plants

Canna is a genus of 10 species of flowering plants. The closest living relations to cannas are the other plant families of the order Zingiberales, that is the Zingiberaceae (gingers), Musaceae (bananas), Marantaceae, Heliconiaceae, Strelitziaceae, etc.

Leech Lake lake in Cass County, Minnesota, United States of America

Leech Lake is a lake located in north central Minnesota, United States. It is southeast of Bemidji, located mainly within the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, and completely within the Chippewa National Forest. It is used as a reservoir. The lake is the third largest in Minnesota, covering 102,947.83 acres (416.6151 km2) with 195 miles (314 km) of shoreline and has a maximum depth of 156 feet (48 m).

<i>Nelumbo nucifera</i> species of plant

Nelumbo nucifera, also known as Indian lotus, sacred lotus, bean of India, Egyptian bean or simply lotus, is one of two extant species of aquatic plant in the family Nelumbonaceae. It is often colloquially called a water lily. Under favorable circumstances the seeds of this aquatic perennial may remain viable for many years, with the oldest recorded lotus germination being from that of seeds 1,300 years old recovered from a dry lakebed in northeastern China.

Taro Species of plant, taro

Colocasia esculenta is a tropical plant grown primarily for its edible corms, a root vegetable most commonly known as taro, or kalo in Hawaiian. It is the most widely cultivated species of several plants in the family Araceae which are used as vegetables for their corms, leaves, and petioles. Taro corms are a food staple in African, Oceanic and South Asian cultures, and taro is believed to have been one of the earliest cultivated plants.

Edible plant stems are one part of plants that are eaten by humans. Most plants are made up of stems, roots, leaves, flowers, and produce fruits containing seeds. Humans most commonly eat the seeds, fruit, flowers, leaves, roots, and stems of many plants. There are also a few edible petioles such as celery or rhubarb.

<i>Typha latifolia</i> Species of plant

Typha latifolia is a perennial herbaceous plant in the genus Typha. It is found as a native plant species in North and South America, Europe, Eurasia, and Africa. In Canada, broadleaf cattail occurs in all provinces and also in the Yukon and Northwest Territories, and in the United States, it is native to all states except Hawaii. It is an introduced and invasive species, and is considered a noxious weed, in Australia and Hawaii. It has been reported in Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines.

<i>Sagittaria latifolia</i> species of plant

Sagittaria latifolia is a plant found in shallow wetlands and is sometimes known as broadleaf arrowhead, duck-potato, Indian potato, or wapato. This plant produces edible tubers that were extensively used by the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

<i>Scirpus</i> genus of flowering plants in the sedge family Cyperaceae

Scirpus is a genus of grass-like species in the sedge family Cyperaceae many with the common names club-rush, wood club-rush or bulrush. They mostly inhabit wetlands and damp locations.

<i>Canna indica</i> species of plant

Canna indica, commonly known as Indian shot, African arrowroot, edible canna, purple arrowroot, Sierra Leone arrowroot, is a plant species in the family Cannaceae. It is native to much of South America, Central America, the West Indies, Mexico, and the southeastern United States. It is also naturalized in much of Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. Canna indica has been a minor food crop cultivated by indigenous peoples of the Americas for thousands of years.

<i>Typha angustifolia</i> species of plant

Typha angustifolia L. is a perennial herbaceous plant of genus Typha. This cattail is an "obligate wetland" species that is commonly found in the northern hemisphere in brackish locations. The plant's leaves are flat, very narrow, and 3'-6' tall when mature; 12-16 leaves arise from each vegetative shoot. At maturity, they have distinctive stalks that are about as tall as the leaves; the stalks are topped with brown, fluffy, sausage-shaped flowering heads. The plants have sturdy, rhizomatous roots that can extend 27" and are typically ¾"-1½" in diameter.

<i>Nymphaea odorata</i> aquatic plant belonging to the genus Nymphaea

Nymphaea odorata, also known as the American white waterlily, fragrant water-lily, beaver root, fragrant white water lily, white water lily, sweet-scented white water lily, and sweet-scented water lily, is an aquatic plant belonging to the genus Nymphaea. It can commonly be found in shallow lakes, ponds, and permanent slow moving waters throughout North America where it ranges from Central America to northern Canada. It is also reported from Brazil and Guyana.

<i>Pontederia cordata</i> species of plant

Pontederia cordata, common name pickerelweed (USA) or pickerel weed (UK), is a monocotyledonous aquatic plant native to the American continent. It grows in a variety of wetlands, including pond and lake margins across an extremely large range from eastern Canada south to Argentina. A few examples include northern rivers, the Everglades and Louisiana.

<i>Agave</i> A genus of flowering plants closely related to yucca (e.g. Joshua tree): Both genera belong to the subfamily Agavoideae.

Agave is a genus of monocots native to the hot and arid regions of the Americas, although some Agave species are also native to tropical areas of South America. The genus Agave is primarily known for its succulent and xerophytic species that typically form large rosettes of strong, fleshy leaves. Plants in this genus may be considered perennial, because they require several to many years to mature and flower. However, most Agave species are more accurately described as monocarpic rosettes or multiannuals, since each individual rosette flowers only once and then dies ; a small number of Agave species are polycarpic.

<i>Peltandra virginica</i> species of plant

Peltandra virginica is a plant of the arum family known as green arrow arum and tuckahoe. It is widely distributed in wetlands in the eastern United States, as well as in Quebec, Ontario, and Cuba. It is common in central Florida including the Everglades and along the Gulf Coast. Its rhizomes are tolerant to low oxygen levels found in wetland soils. It can be found elsewhere in North America as an introduced species and often an invasive plant.

<i>Xanthorrhoea glauca</i> species of plant

Xanthorrhoea glauca, known as the grass tree, is a large plant in the genus Xanthorrhoea, widespread in eastern Australia. The trunk can grow in excess of 5 metres tall, and may be many branched. It is occasionally seen in large communities in nutrient rich soils. The leaves are a grey or bluish glaucous green.

<i>Typha minima</i> species of plant

Typha minima, common name dwarf bulrush or miniature cattail or least bulrush, is a perennial herbaceous plant belonging to the Typhaceae family.

<i>Typha orientalis</i> species of plant

Typha orientalis, commonly known as bulrush, bullrush, cumbungi in Australia, or raupo in New Zealand, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the genus Typha. It can be found in Australia, New Zealand including the Chatham Islands and the Kermadec Islands), Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, China and the Russian Far East.

<i>Iris wilsonii</i> species of plant

Iris wilsonii is a species in the genus Iris, also the subgenus of Limniris and in the Iris series Sibiricae. It is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial, from China. It has long and drooping grey-green leaves, hollow stems and 2 fragrant yellow, pale yellow or yellow/white flowers.

Weed Lake Wetland

Weed Lake is a local wetland area located outside of Langdon, Alberta. It is the home to many natural wildlife including several species of birds and fish.

Typha × glauca is a plant of hybrid origin originating as a cross between T. angustifolia and T. latifolia. It shows invasive behavior in the Midwestern United States


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