Typha domingensis Pers.


Typhaceae (Cat-Tail Family)






Slender Cat-Tail  

                                July Photo


Plant Characteristics:  Tall perennial herb from creeping rhizomes, 2-3 m. tall; lvs. 6-9, equaling or slightly exceeding female spikes, 6-12 mm. wide, moderately convex on back, light yellowish green, the sheaths tapering into the blade; mature female spike 15-25 cm. long, 1.5-2.2 cm. thick, uniform, light cinnamon-brown, becoming buffy or grayish; bracts light brown, translucent and spongy; stigmas light brown, linear, not fleshy; interval between female and male spikes usually ca. the diam. of the former; male spikes with cuneate, lacinate, brown bracts and golden-yellow 1 celled pollen.


Habitat:  Widely distributed in subsaline habitats below 5000 ft.; Freshwater Marsh; L. Calif. to Ore.; s. Atlantic Coast, S. Am.; Eu.  June-July.


Name:  Typha, the ancient Greek name.  (Munz, Flora So. Calif. 1012).   Domingensis probably refers to the name of a person or of a place. Latin, ensis, adjectival suffix meaning, belonging to.  (Jaeger 93).


General:  More abundant in the study area than T. angustifolia but not as common as T. latifolia.   Photographed in Big Canyon and in the area where the old Salt Works was.  (my comments).     All species of this genus bear edible roots containing a core of almost pure starch, as much as corn, in fact, and with less fat.  The roots may be boiled or roasted, or dried and then ground into meal or flour.  Bread may be made from the pollen and the young shoots are good raw or cooked.  Pioneers once used the leaves for caulking barrels and making rush-bottomed furniture.  Indians used cat-tail down in dressings for wounds, in padding cradleboards, and both Indians and whites used it for stuffing pillows.  (Kirk 171).      Small pockets of freshwater marsh have often been observed to develop next to storm drains or other areas of continuous freshwater input to salt marsh habitats, but it is rare to witness large-scale replacement of salt marsh by freshwater marsh.  Vegetation at the mouth of the San Diego River shifted from dominance by pickleweed, (Salicornia virginicia) to dominance by cattails (Typha domingensis) when the natural floods of 1980 were followed by the deliberate release of water from El Capitan Reservoir.  A two-month period of inundation early in the growing season killed large areas of pickleweed-dominated salt marsh vegetation at the seaward end of the river.  Seeds of freshwater marsh species, brought downstream by the floodwaters, germinated rapidly. Cattails developed nearly a continuous, tall, robust canopy within two to three months after flooding.  Dominance by freshwater species was short lived, however, because the freshwater input ceased and tides resumed their role as the major water source.  (Zedler 37).       Possibly naturalized in California.  (Hickman, Ed. 1309).  Hickman calls the species a native in spite of the previous statement.  (my comment).      For additional information on Typha uses see T. angustifolia and T. latifolia. (my comment).


Text Ref:  Abrams, Vol. I 80; Hickman, Ed. 1309; Mason 39; Munz; Calif. Flora 1367; Munz, Flora So. Calif. 1012; Roberts 49.

Photo Ref:  June 5 83 # 2; July 1 83 # 1; June 1 86 # 22; July 1 86 # 3.

Identity: by R. De Ruff.

Computer Ref:  Plant Data 289.

Have plant specimen.

Last edit 7/13/03.


                                   July Photo