Typha latifolia is a popular ornamental species of flowering plants in the Typhaceae family. In cultivation, this plant goes by many common names including Common cattail, Bulrush, Cooper’s reed, Cat-o’-nine-tails, Broadleaf cattail, and Cumbungi.
Common cattail plants cover large areas around the world. They are native to different regions of North and South America, northern Asia, Europe, and northern Africa. These plants show up in numerous wetland habitats like swamps, marshes, lakes, slow-flowing streams, ditches, or seeps.
Although these plants might seem very peculiar at first, they will win your heart with their overall easy-going nature for sure. If you are the lucky owner of a water garden, Common cattail plants are the perfect fit for every landscape decoration. Keep reading to find out more interesting facts about these charming and low-demanding plants!
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About Common Cattail
- Common cattail plants appear in various climates, such as southern and northern temperate, subtropical, tropical, dry continental, and humid coastal. They usually grow at elevations of up to 7500 feet (2300 m) above sea level.
- Common cattail comes with health benefits, playing a big part in both traditional and modern medicine. It has astringent, anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant, diuretic, hemostatic, refrigerant, sedative, tonic, and other healing properties.
- Most parts of Common cattail plants are edible. However, they usually absorb lots of pollutants from their surroundings. Because of this, people should avoid eating specimens from polluted areas that have a very spicy or bitter taste.
- In some cultures, traditional folks used these plants in plenty of culinary recipes. They are excellent ingredients for making bread, cakes, muffins, biscuits, porridge, soups, and goodies.
- Their roots are very rich in proteins and carbohydrates. Springtime young shoots are great asparagus substitutes and have a cucumber-like flavour. The immature flowering spikes taste like sweet corn. Roasted seeds have a pleasant nutty savour.
- Common cattail plants are a popular building medium and food source for muskrats. Red-winged blackbirds also use them as a support for their nests. Underwater, they provide shelter for small species of fish and other tiny aquatic creatures.
- They work nicely in the manufacture of mats, baskets, and furniture. People use their downy seeds to stuff mattresses and pillows. During World War II, many also made use of the seeds as stuffing for life jackets.
- The most attractive and suitable companion plants for Common cattail are American Bur-Reed, Bog Bean, Canna ‘Ra’, Calla Lily, European Water Plantain, Flowering Rush, Golden Club, Pickerel Weed, Powdery Alligator-Flag, and Yellow Iris.
Common Cattail Features: An Overview
- They belong to the Typha genus that contains about 30 species of grass and grass-like flowering plants. These plants share the genus with other interesting species like T. angustifolia, T. domingensis, T. laxmannii, T. minima, or T. orientalis.
- Common cattail plants are herbaceous perennials that can reach from 5 to 10 feet (1.5-3 m) in height. They are vigorous aquatic species that grow from large, underground, or underwater rhizomes.
- Their foliage consists of large, robust, end-tapered, and light green leaves along with upright, erect, and greenish stems. The narrow leaves usually measure between 0.75 and 1.25 inches (2-4 cm) in width.
- Common cattail plants bloom throughout the summer months. During the warm season, they produce over 1000 large, thick, cylindrical, and brownish spikes of both female and male blooms.
- Their tiny male and female blossoms come separated in two distinct blooming components and feature no petals. They are not those ordinary perfect blossoms that we are familiar with.
- The female flowers are brown, densely arranged around the spikes, and have one pistil. The male flowers appear around smaller, golden-yellowish, and pointed spikes that emerge from the top of the female blooming body.
- Once their flowering season has ended, Common cattail plants bear fruits where their blossoms were. They are tiny, brown, one-seeded follicles with a unilateral opening.
Growing Common Cattail
Although Common cattail buddies are aquatic plants that require special growing conditions, they are not so difficult to handle. Once you understand their basic demands, believe us, you will become a master of growing and caring for these plants! And if you grow them in a suitable environment, they will reward you with a stunning cattail colony in a short time.
In general, Common cattail plants are very adaptable and will do just fine in a variety of lighting conditions. However, these plants cannot survive in fully shaded locations for too long. For optimal results, you should grow them anywhere they can receive full sunlight to partial shade all year round.
Common cattail plants are hardy in USDA zones 3 to 10. The average annual temperatures for these plants to thrive should range from 59 to 77 °F (15-25 °C). They usually grow at their best in almost any climate that is somehow warm and humid. Keep in mind that young shoots do not cope with harsh winters pretty well. But! Established Common cattail specimens will tolerate frost during their dormant period without any problem.
Planting Common Cattail
Due to their ability to grow at a very fast pace, Common cattail plants may become invasive with time. If you want to control the spread of their rhizomes, we recommend you grow these plants in pots. Right after planting, you can submerge them directly in water or a boggy area.
Make sure you plant them in clay pots because they have the proper weight to keep your buddies upright when submerged. However, it is wise to keep your Common cattail plants inside your house during the cool winter months. Their pots may crack under freezing exposure.
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- Cattails can be found in marshes and wetlands on almost every continent. Indeed, cattails are a familiar sight along creeks, riverbanks
- When broadleaf cattail seeds collected from across the United States were grown in a common garden, plants from seed collected in northern populations flowered earlier than plants from seed from southern populations
- The scientific name of broadleaf cattail is Typha latifolia L. (Typhaceae)
- Cattails are a very important food for wildlife and are supposedly quite edible and tasty for humans, too (Euell Gibbons devotes a whole chapter to Cattails in his book, ''Stalking the Wild Asparagus.''). Cattails require moist soil, such as the edge of a pond, or can be grown in shallow water up to about 6'' in depth. They are easy to grow in any climate if given sufficient water, though they can become invasive if not contained.
- Zone 3+
When it comes to their growing medium, Common cattail plants can do well in most types of soil. Still, they prefer a loamy substrate that is rich in nutrients and organic matter. Due to their moist-loving nature, you should avoid well-draining soils at all costs.
Although fertilizing Common cattail plants is not mandatory, they will benefit from this kind of attention once in a while. Especially if you are growing your beloved plants in pots! Feed them with a water plant food or a balanced liquid fertilizer in early spring. It will be nice to repeat this process once every year but do not worry too much if you forget about it.
Once their leaves or blossoms begin to turn yellow or brown, you should prune them to make room for new ones to show up. In general, the foliage of Common cattail plants will die off as winter arrives. During this season, it is best to trim your plants back to one or two inches (2.5-5 cm) above the top of the water.
Watering Common Cattail
Common cattail plants are so understanding in terms of watering that you will not need to worry about issues like root rot. As you might already expect, these companions are the happiest when they receive lots and lots of moisture. The worst thing that you could possibly do to them is under-watering, but this is almost impossible if you are growing them in water.
As a general rule, their growing medium should be constantly wet. Common cattail plants have the time of their life in climates that can provide them with moisture naturally. If you live in a hot and dry region, you should always keep your plants in water or provide them with a nice, deep soaking regularly.
Common cattail plants do not mind having their feet wet for a long time at all. In fact, they can grow properly in standing water and this is the most important element of their care. Some studies have shown that these plants can thrive even if the water is as deep as 2 feet (0.6 m).
Propagating Common Cattail
Common cattail plants are wonderful garden fillers, so why not having as many specimens as you want? These alluring plants can already self-seed without any extra help to the point of becoming invasive in unwanted places. But you can always intervene and do these things in your way through propagation very easily!
If you want to obtain more of these beauties from seeds, you must first collect the seeds from the ground or water. Once you have the Common cattail seeds, you can sow just above the surface of the soil. The seeds require lots of moisture to germinate properly, and even faster. Make sure you provide them with water to maintain their soil constantly wet to the point of being soggy.
You can also propagate common cattail plants using rhizome division. This is the ideal propagation method if you want to move one or more plants to a different location. All you have to do is dig up your babies, cut their roots into sections, and replant them wherever you want to. They will respond well to this process if each divided part has at least one young shoot of 5-10 inches (13-25 cm) tall attached to it.
Common cattail plants have very few demands and look absolutely fabulous near many other species of aquatic fellows. Basically, these plants are your chance to bring your creativity into play and make the best of your gardening skills. You cannot possibly miss this opportunity and you know it!