Cattail

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Cattail 1.png
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Latin: Typha latifolia

Appearance:

• Stems are unbranched, cylindrical, and 1–3m (3–10ft) tall

• Tiny dark brown flowers are numerous and grow in a cylindrical spike

Habitat:

• Marshes, ponds, lakeshores, and wet ditches, in slow-flowing or tranquil water.

Cultural Uses:

• The cattail was the second most important plant to the Suquamish

• Cattails were used for numerous household and personal items, which included baskets, clothing, rain clothing, cushions, protective canoe covers, bedding, winter home insulation and mats to serve meals on. Seed fluff was used for stuffing pillows and mattresses, and used as a wound dressing and for diapers.

• Fishing weirs, used to collect fish, were made out of cattail mats

• Cattail tubers were an important part of the Suquamish diet

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Other Characteristics:

• Leaves are alternate, flat, long, narrow, 1–2cm (3/8–3/4in) wide

• The lower portion of the flower spike consists of female flowers that are dark brown. The upper portion of the flower consists of male flowers that are coneshaped, disintegrating and leaving the stem tip bare.

• The fruits are tiny ellipsoidal nutlets designed to float in wind or water, with many long, slender hairs at the base

Interesting Facts:

• Cattails create dense, leafy growth that provides important habitat for many marsh animals, including wrens, blackbirds, waterfowl, and muskrats. Cattails also serve as a food source for many animals.

• The cattail provides food for some Native Americans. The Chehalis bake the roots and inner stalks in the ashes for eating. The roots are eaten raw by the Lower Chinook.

• The rhizomes of cattails are stout and spread rapidly, helping stabilize marsh soils.

Source: Pojar, J. & A. MacKinnon. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast (1994) Drawings by: Debby Goodwin, Melissa Matassa and Rebecca Helms