Typha latifolia L.


Typhaceae (Cat-Tail Family)




Broad-Leaved Cat-Tail  


Soft Flag  

                                          June Photo


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.


Habitat:  Freshwater Marsh; throughout Calif., below 5000 ft.; Channel Ids.; to Alaska, Atlantic Coast, Eu.  June-July.


Name:  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 104,137).   Latifolia, referring to the wide leaves. (my comment).


General:  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.  Collins 220.      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.  (my comment).


Text Ref:  Abrams, Vol. I 80; Hickman, Ed. 1310; Munz, Flora So. Calif. 1012.

Photo Ref:  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.


                                                 June Photo