Typha Latifolia Descriptive Essay

Species Description

Typha latifolia are very densely packed with tiny flowers, male flowers in top cluster and female flowers in bottom cluster (UoF, 2005). Stems can be more than one foot long. Leaves are straplike and stiff; rounded on back; flat and D shaped. Leaves are straight in the bottom half but twisted and spiral in the top (UoF, 1998). Leaves are thick and pale grayish-green in colour (NPWRC, 2005). It flowers during May and June. The fruit is tiny and tufted nutlet (NPWRC, 2005). Boreal Forest (2005) states that cattail can be distinguished by the following “male flowers are brown, minute, >1.3cm long, thickly clustered, anthers 1-3mm long. Female flowers are tiny, 2-3mm long when in flower, 10-15mm long when in fruit. Female fruiting spike are pale green when in flower, drying to brownish, later blackish brown or reddish brown in fruit. Seed are minute and numerous”.


Uses for Typha latifolia over time have been many; it has been: used for thatch in roofing, or woven into mats, chairs and hats; a source of fiber for rayon and a crude, greenish brown paper; torches and tinder; pollen used in making fireworks; stuffing pillows, insulation, crude floatation devices, wound dressing, and lining for diapers (Boreal Forest, 2005).
T. latifolia stands provide important food cover for wildlife and birds. They establish habitats for waterfowl and especially valuable in attracting nesting red-winged blackbird. Muskrats use the foliage to construct their lodges, which in turn provide resting and nesting sites for water birds (Rook, 2004).
Many parts of this plant are edible for human consumption. Rook (2004) states that the “native Americans used leaves and stems as food. Rhizomes were dried and ground into flour or eaten as cooked vegetables; young stems were eaten raw or cooked; and immature fruiting spikes were roasted”. In spring, the rootstocks and rhizomes were important food source for native people when other food was scarce (WSDoE, 2003). The young shoots were cooked as vegetables and the pollen are used in baking (WSDoE, 2003).

Habitat Description

Rook (2004) reports “all our wetland plant communities from deep marshes to open bogs, growing on wet substrates and often in 1-2 feet or more of standing water. It grows where soil remains wet, saturated or flooded most of the growing season, in shallow freshwater and occurs in slightly blackish marshes. It prefers soil with high amounts of organic matter and can also grow on fine texture mineral soils.


Typha latifolia rapidly colonizes exposed wet mineral soils, as it produces an extremely high number of wind water dispersed seeds (Rook, 2004). Reproduces by seed and vegetatively by rhizomes. Vegetative reproduction occurs through an extensive rhizomes system and is responsible for the maintenance and expansion of existing stands. Sexual reproduction is via seed dispersal and seedling establishment is responsible for invasion of new areas”.


T. latifolia seed may be transported by wind, in water, in mud on the feet of birds and livestock, or by humans and machinery. Up to 95% of all seed produced is viable (DPIEW, 2005).

Principal source:

Compiler: IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) with support from the Terrestrial and Freshwater Biodiversity Information System (TFBIS) Programme (Copyright statement)

Review: Expert review underway: Heather A. Hager, Ph.D. \ Ecologist USA
Takashi Asaeda\ Department of Environmental Science\ Saitama University Japan

Publication date: 2006-04-03

Recommended citation: Global Invasive Species Database (2018) Species profile: Typha latifolia. Downloaded from http://www.iucngisd.org/gisd/species.php?sc=895 on 14-03-2018.

General Impacts

Motivans and Apfelbaum (1987) listing out the impacts of the genus Typha state that they form dense monocultures when there is a wetland disturbance. They have the ability to spread rapidly by vegetative reproduction forming forming dense rhizome mats and litter. This has an impact on species diversity by alteration of habitat. Dense Typha growth and litter may reduce the opportunity for other plants to establish or survive (Wesson and Waring 1969 in m). They rapidly close any open water giving few oppurtunities for other plants to establish.

Management Info

Physical: Control techniques of fire and physical removal (cutting) in conjunction with flooding are most appropriate. Motivans and Apfelbaum (1987) suggest that draining techniques used in wetlands can inhibit growth. If the wetland can be drained and then burned during summer, typha will not be able to survive with no water over winter. There have however been no controlled experiments carried out to demonstrate this method. Deep flooding can also cause declines in infestations.
An effective control of Typha can be achieved by a combination of hand or mechanical cutting of stems followed by submergence of the remaining stems. Best results have been achieved by two clippings followed by submergence to at least 7.5cm or 3inches. typha are not shade tolerant, shading using black polyethylene tarps has been tried for killing growth. Degradation of the polyethylene tarps and problems of holding them down are some problems.
Manual removal works best for small seedlings. They are easy to pull out in damp soil, care must be taken to see that all rhizome bits are removed otherwise the plants can reestablish itself (DPIWE, 2005).

Mechanical: Mechanical removal of rhizomes is difficult because of their depth and volumn, however it can be used to reduce size of infestations and by following up with manual removal. The advantages of mechanical and manual removal are that no herbicide is used in water. Care should also be taken to ensure that the excavated material is taken away from the site and killed (DPIWE, 2005).
Exposure of rhizomes to frost by cultivation of the site is a good method when water levels are low (DPIWE, 2005).

Chemical: Treating typha when flowering using herbicides has been found to cause the greatest stress. The disadvantage however of using herbicides is the large volumn of decaying matter that remains which can cause water to go foul and unusable (DPIEW, 2005). Wick and spray applications of Roundup followed by with follow-up treatements has been found to be effective.
Treatment with herbicides like Dalpan followed up by respraying growing tips and making sure that the stems are submerged has been found to be successful. For more details of chemical control please see Motivans and Apfelbaum, 1987.
For more option is herbicide treatment please see Chemical control (DPIWE, 2005).

575Typha latifolia

Common Names: cattail, reed-maceFamily:Typhaceae(cattail Family)


Cattails have stiff, unbranched stems and long, erect, swordlike leaves with parallel veins. They stand 3-9' tall and are connected underground by thick rootstocks called rhizomes. The stems are topped by dense cylindrical spikes of tiny brown flowers (golden when laden with pollen) that look like sausages or cat's tails. Common cattail gets up to 9' tall and the upper, male or pollen bearing flower spike is joined to the lower, female part. Narrow leaved cattail gets up to 5' tall and there is a gap on the stem between the male and female flower spikes.


Cattails Typha latifolia grow in dense stands in fresh or brackish marshes and around the margins of lakes, ponds and sluggish streams in temperate and tropical regions throughout the world.


Light: Full sun. Moisture: Cattails grow at the water's edge, and are at their best in water less than 16" deep. They can tolerate only brief periods of drying out. Hardiness: USDA Zones 2 - 11. Propagation: The root stocks can be divided to produce new plants.


Cattails are best suited for use in large pools. They will spread if not contained by pond liners or deep water. Cattails provide excellent wildlife habitat. Rails, bitterns, ducks, red-winged blackbirds and other birds nest in cattail marshes.


Cattails are probably the most versatile edible wild plant in North America. All parts are edible. In early spring the young shoots can be peeled and eaten raw or cooked like asparagus. In late spring the immature flower heads (while still green) can be boiled and eaten like corn on the cob. In early summer, the golden pollen is easily shaken off the flower spikes into a paper bag. Mixed with wheat flour, it makes an excellent protein rich flour, especially good for pancakes. From late summer through winter, small sprouts on the tips of the rhizomes can be eaten raw or cooked as a potherb. Throughout the winter, the thick rootstocks are full of starch and the core can be cooked like potatoes, or made into a snowy white flour. The leaves of cattail are used to weave baskets and chair seats and backs. The flower heads are used in arrangements

Steve Christman 10/04/99; updated 6/30/01, 1/5/06

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