Typha latifolia : Common Cattail


Scientific Name:

Kingdom: Plantae


Class: Monocoteldonae (one seed-leaf)

Family: Typhaceae (Cattail Family Family)

Genera: Typha (Cattails) (Gk. typhoeus a mythical monster with 100 heads)

Species: latifolia (Lat. latus=broad + folium=leaf)

English Name(s):

Common Cattail,

First Nation Names:

Typhaceae (Cattail Family): Family Triats


Large (ours) Grass like plants.

Flowers imperfect (unisexual), not showy.

Male flowers located above the female flowers on top of a stalk.

Natural History:

These plants rely on wind for both pollination and seed dispersal

Family Size:


Genera: 1

Species: 20

North America:

Genera: 1

Species: 10


Genera: 1

Species: 1

Central Yukon:(CYSIP study area)

Genera: 1

Species: 1



  • Stout plant more than 1 meter tall from a thick fleshy rhizome (undergound stem).


  • Linear, flat, 6-15mm wide, light green, often slightly longer than flowering stem.

Reproductive Parts:

  • Flowers imperfect(unisexual) crowded in a dense spike at end of stem with staminate (male) flowers on top and pistilate (female) flowers below.


  • Seeds have fuzzy plumes and are spread by the wind.
  • Tiny nutlets about 1mm long.

Not to Be Confused With:



      Life Cycle:

      • Perennial
      • Branching rhizomes can over the years decay in older parts leaving newer sections to continue growing as independent clone plants.

      Seasonal Cycle:

      • Due to its height seeds can often be distributed by the wind though the winter.
      • Leaves and flowering stem deciduous (dieing back) but often persistent (not falling off).


      Animal Uses:

      • Rhizomes high in starch and are a food for many animals. including geese, muskrats and possibly moose.


      • Shllow water in marshes and ponds




      • Leaves can be woven for mats, place mats, chair seats and backs.


      • Seed down is one of the best things for soothing burned scaled and chaffed portions of the body.


      • Flowering spikes when young can be taken out of their sheathes boiled for 20 minutes and eaten like corn on the cob.
      • Flowers especially the male ones can be scraped off and used as flavouring or soup thickener.
      • Male flowers can be stripped off and mixed fresh or dried with equal parts flour to make muffins, cookies, biscuits and pancakes.
      • Pollin can be harvested by shaking the flowers in a container and used as the whole flower would be. Cattail pollin pancakes are bright yellow and apparently very good.
      • Roots are good thoughout the year but are best when young and after cattails (seed cylinder) have turned brown.
      • Roots can be eaten raw but better cooked because of its harsh fibers.
      • Roots contain 30%-46% starch. Can yield a flour of 80% carbohydrates and 6%-8% protien.
      • The minute nutlets can be eaten after burning off the bristles.

      Traditional Gwich'in:





              Traditional Other:


              • 2 of the heavenly beings born of the cattail, Izanagi and Izanami god of the air and godess of the clouds, created the earth in Japanese lore.
              • Catails were said to be used by witches for riding like they do on brooms.
              • In Japan a cattail budded at its tip and piercing the misty heaven from the misty earth, carried the seed of life into the infinate. The bud opened and from it can 4 pairs of heavenly beings.


              • Down placed under babies as cushioning keeping them clean and warm.
              • Flower heads dipped in oil were used as torches.
              • Hollow stems were used as candle molds.
              • Leaves were woven to make rugs and baby boards.


              • Flowers said to relieve abdominal pain, stimulate menstration, relieve painful menstration, non-menstral bleeding from the uterus, bladder infections, blood in the urine, and vaginal infections.
              • Pollen was said to be equal to Lycopodium for medicinal uses. It was used as an astringent, or sedative, said to increase urine flow, reduce fever, stop bleeding, and heal wounds.
              • Pulped roots were mixed with animal grease and applied to burns, scalds and chafed skin.
              • Rootstocks said to increase urine flow, stimulate milk flow and relieve caked breast, reduce fever, and relieve disentery.
              • Seed down was spread over burned scaled and chaffed portions of the body.
              • Stems sliced were spread on wounds, burns and sores. Also taken internally for diarrhea, to kill worms, and cure gonorrhea.
              • The Cheyenne used powdered roots and white leaf bases to make an infusion taken to relieve stomach cramps.
              • The Delaware used roots to cure kidney stones.
              • The Houma made a stem decoction for whooping cough.
              • The Ojibwa crushed the roots and applied them to boils, carbuncles and sores.
              • The Washoe ate young flower heads to relieve diarrhea.



                Seeds starting to disperse

                Plants in winter

                Illustration from: Illustrated Flora of BC

                Range Maps

                World Range: Circumpolar.

                Prov/State Abrev. List

                In Yukon: Rare, known only from 4 sites, 2 in Central Yukon

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