An Illustrated Guide to ARIZONA WEEDS

The University of Arizona Press

CATTAILS

Illustration

CATTAIL FAMILY-Typhaceae

CATTAILS-Typha spp.

DESCRIPTION-The two most common species of cattail in Arizona are stout pithy perennials, 4 to 7 feet high, reproducing by seed which germinates readily on wet mud; also spreading rapidly by creeping, submerged rhizomes. The alternate grasslike leaves are several feet long, with sheathing bases. The "cattail" is the flowering spike, composed of two sections of minute flowers.

The upper yellowish section bears only male flowers, each consisting of 2 to 5 stamens, the flowers drop away as soon as the pollen is shed, leaving the upper end of the spike naked. The lower brown section bears masses of densely packed female flowers, each with 40 to 60 delicate hairs, and persists for several months. The seedcase is a minute achene, brown and spindleshaped, about 1/16 inch long, with the fine hairs still intact when shed.

DISTRIBUTION-Cattails are native plants, growing in marshy areas along rivers and floodlands, but may become a nuisance by clogging irrigation ditches and permanent ponds; flowering May to July. With their efficient vegetative propagation they form dense stands, and are hard to eradicate once established.

COMMON CATTAIL, soft flag, broadleaf cattail-Typha latifolia L

DESCRIPTION-The leaves flat, 3/8 to 7/8 inch broad, and usually without a space between male (upper) and female (lower) sections of spike. The female section is fat-cigarshaped, dark reddish brown, whitish in age, 4 to 7 inches long, 3/4 to 1 l/4 inches thick, and often somewhat thicker at top.

DISTRIBUTION-Common cattail usually grows in fresh water in slightly acid soils, sometimes in slightly polluted water, or in seepage areas, even on slopes. Mostly in north central and eastern Arizona, in Apache, Navajo, Coconino, Gila, Maricopa, and Cochise counties; 3,500 to 7,500 feet elevation. The leaves are woven into chair seats in central New York.

POISONOUS PROPERTIES-Common cattail has been suspected of fatally poisoning horses, but no cases have been reported in Arizona.

SOUTHERN CATTAIL-Typha domingensis Pers.

DESCRIPTION-The leaves are somewhat convex on the back, and l/4 to l/2 inch broad. A space from 1/4 to 1 3/4 inches long is always present between the male and female sections of the spike. The female section is a lighter color than the common cattail, light brown becoming buffy or grayish, longer and narrower, 6 to 15 inches long, 5/8 to 7/8 inch thick and the same thickness throughout.

DISTRIBUTION-Southern cattail grows mostly in lowlands in brackish water or wet soils with appreciable salt content; in north central and southern Arizona, in Apache, Coconino, Gila, Maricopa, Pinal, Cochise, Pima, and Yuma counties; 137 to 6,500 feet elevation.

Copyright (c) 1972 The Arizona Board of Regents



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