Flowering narrow-leaved cattails
© Mandy Tu, The Nature Conservancy
Narrow-leaved cattail, native to Eurasia, is considered a riparian dominance type that limits biodiversity in many wetland areas.
Keywords: Typhaceae, aquatic, freshwater, perennial, riparian dominance type, cigar-shaped flower spikes, soft downy seeds, rhizomes; Common names: cattail
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Narrow-leaved cattail distribution
Narrow-leaved cattail is an erect aquatic freshwater perennial growing 3 to 6 ft. tall. Leaves emerging in spring are 2 to 5 ft. long, very narrow, and flattened. Flowers mature in mid-summer and are comprised of velvety brown, cigar-shaped spikes 2 to 6 in. long with a gap between male and female flowers (common cattail, Typha latifolia, has no gap). The male flowers are produced above the female spike, later breaking up and allowing the fruits to be dispersed by wind. One plant can produce about 250,000 soft downy seeds in the fall that can remain viable in the seed bank for up to 100 years. Narrow-leaved cattail reproduces by seeds and by thick, rapidly spreading, lateral rhizomes. Dense rhizome mats and clustered leaves producing a thick litter layer may reduce the opportunity for other plants to establish or survive. Narrow-leaved cattail is located in wetlands, lakeshores, river backwaters, road sides, ditches, disturbed wet areas, bogs, fresh or brackish marshes, lakes, and ponds. It can thrive in nutrient rich or slightly saline soils. It is generally not shade tolerant. Many wetland areas that once contained diverse wildlife habitat now have solid stands of cattails.