Common Cattails – Typha latifolia

Common Cattail in bloom
Common Cattail in bloom


…She is dropping a rose
frozen forever in time
it cascades from her hand.
Around her, the pond,
the cat-tails, the bird song,
all captured deliciously…

By Daniel James Burt


This common plant of wetland areas is native to most of North America, Europe. Asia, and Africa. Across most of America the bladelike leaves sway in the gentle breezes set up by passing road traffic, while the telltale tall stalk with the brown sausage flowering heads stand as sentinels.


Prior to the roads being paved as they are today, they showed the course of every wet area, from ditch to river making it simpler to survive. All parts of this precious survival plant are useful in some way. The leaves can be used in weaving flexible mats, of all sizes, for uses ranging from sleeping, sitting, providing shade, to creating doorways, and more….your imagination is the limit. Some of the Native American tribes used the leaves and the sheath base for caulk material. The pollen was used in ceremony, and as an addition to flour for making a delicious flat bread. The fluff of the seeds could be used to line a baby’s diaper for absorbency, as tinder in starting a fire, and as insulation.


Beyond the everyday useful, the cattail was used in medicine. The rhizomes were crushed and poultices on sores and inflamed wounds. The stem (with the flower head) was mad into an infusion used to treat coughs. And the fluff from the seeds was used to stop bleeding, and to cover wounds (specifically burns).

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