Typhaceae (Cat-Tail Family)
Plant Characteristics: Tall
perennial herbs from creeping rhizomes, 1-2.5 m. high; lvs. 12-16, moderately
exceeding the female spikes, 8-15 mm. wide, nearly flat, light green; the
sheaths tapering into the blade or truncate; mature female spike 10-18 cm. long,
1.8-3 cm. thick, often thickened upward, dark green-brown to red-brown, becoming
whitish as stigmas wear off; bracts none; stigmas medium to dark brown,
lance-ovate, fleshy; no interval between female and male spikes; male spikes
with simple, hairlike, white bracts and deep orange-yellow, 4 celled pollen.
Freshwater Marsh; throughout Calif., below 5000 ft.; Channel Ids.; to
Alaska, Atlantic Coast, Eu. June-July.
Typha, the ancient Greek name.
(Munz, Flora So. Calif. 1012).
Greek, typhe, a plant used for stuffing beds, such as the cat's
tail, hence sometimes used in the sense of hairy, fluffy.
(Jaeger 274). Latin, latus,
wide and Latin, folium, leaf. (Jaeger
referring to the wide leaves. (my comment).
Very common in the study area. Photographed
near the old Salt Works dike. (my comments).
The Cahuilla Indians, inhabitants of the Colorado Desert, the San Jacinto
and San Bernardino Mountains, dried roots and ground them to make cakes and mush
and used the stalk for matting and bedding.
Other tribes ate the young shoots and used the leaves for caulking
material. The Hopis of Arizona
mixed the brown spike fuzz with tallow to make a chewing gum.
The fluff from the spike was used as insulation.
The leaves have long been used as a weaving material.
The young plants about 12 in. high are good raw, or cooked, after
removing the leaves. Mature plants
have a starchy heart at the point where the stem joins the root and can be
cooked like a potato. (Clarke 144). Down of cat-tails has been used by
the Indians for baby beds. (Murphy
55). The Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius
phoeniceus uses cat-tails for shelter and nesting cover.
Cat-tails are regarded with suspicion as poisonous to livestock. (Robbins et al. 36).
Down from the cattail cobs was used to soothe burns.
(Fielder 34). The Northern Paiute preferred cattail
leaves to cover their willow frame houses.
The flat surface of the cattail would shed water best, but tule or grass
could also be used. (Campbell 21).
For additional information on the genus Typha, see T.
angustifolia and T. domingensis.
Abrams, Vol. I 80; Hickman, Ed. 1310; Munz, Flora So. Calif. 1012.
June 7 83 # 17A,18A.
Identity: by R. De Ruff
First Found: June 1983.
Computer Ref: Plant Data 290.
No plant specimen.
Last edit 11/8/04.