Typha latifolia - L.
Broadleaf Cattail
Other Common Names: broadleaf cattail
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Typha latifolia L. (TSN 42326)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.153503
Element Code: PMTYP01040
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Other flowering plants
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Monocotyledoneae Typhales Typhaceae Typha
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Typha latifolia
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 05Aug2015
Global Status Last Changed: 06Sep1984
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Wide distribution.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5 (19Nov2017)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (SNR), Alaska (SNR), Arizona (SNR), Arkansas (SNR), California (SNR), Colorado (SNR), Connecticut (SNR), Delaware (S5), District of Columbia (S5), Florida (SNR), Georgia (SNR), Hawaii (SNA), Idaho (SNR), Illinois (S5), Indiana (SNR), Iowa (S5), Kansas (SNR), Kentucky (S5), Louisiana (SNR), Maine (SNR), Maryland (SNR), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNR), Minnesota (SNR), Mississippi (SNR), Missouri (SNR), Montana (S5), Nebraska (SNR), Nevada (SNR), New Hampshire (SNR), New Jersey (S5), New Mexico (SNR), New York (S5), North Carolina (S5), North Dakota (SNR), Ohio (SNR), Oklahoma (SNR), Oregon (SNR), Pennsylvania (SNR), Rhode Island (SNR), South Carolina (SNR), South Dakota (SNR), Tennessee (SNR), Texas (SNR), Utah (SNR), Vermont (SNR), Virginia (S5), Washington (SNR), West Virginia (S5), Wisconsin (SNR), Wyoming (S3S4)
Canada Alberta (S5), British Columbia (S5), Manitoba (S4S5), New Brunswick (S5), Northwest Territories (S4S5), Nova Scotia (S5), Nunavut (S2), Ontario (S5), Prince Edward Island (S5), Quebec (S5), Saskatchewan (S4), Yukon Territory (S2S3)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Cattail management may be desired in situations where cattails have responded to wetland disturbance by growing in dense monocultures. The genus Typha can behave like aggressive introduced weeds in a variety of natural communities throughout North America (Apfelbaum 1985). Cattails are considered serious weeds in some countries (Holm et al. 1979, Morton 1975) but not necessarily in North America.

In high-quality natural communities, cattails usually occur as scattered sterile plants (Apfelbaum 1985). With disruptions to a community, cattail populations may respond by spreading vegetatively at a rapid rate. The effect of the growth spurt is closing open water, eliminating habitat and species diversity, and reducing the opportunity for other plants to become established and survive. Shading is a significant effect on other plants. Cattails are successful because they form extensive monocultures very rapidly through vegetative reproduction and maintain their dominance with the formation of dense rhizomes mats and litter.

Cattails have a wide ecological amplitude compared to other species (Pianka 1973). They are tolerant to habitat changes, pollutants in the water system, and saline or basic substrates. A study in Indiana concluded that the three basic events precede the growth of cattails monocultures: 1. modified surface hydrology, 2. wildfire suppression, and 3. wetland enrichment (Wilcox et al. 1984). Claims that hybrid cattails are responsible for monoculture growths have not been confirmed.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HIexotic, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Canada AB, BC, MB, NB, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: The cattail genus (Typha spp.) is an erect, perennial freshwater aquatic herb.
Technical Description: The cattail genus can grow 3 or more meters in height. The linear cattail leaves are thick, ribbon-like structures which have a spongy cross-section exhibiting air channels. The subterranean stem arises from thick creeping rhizomes. North American cattails have minute, brown colored male flowers (staminate) thickly clustered on a club-like spadix. The lower portion of the spadix bares the female flowers (pistillate). There are three species and several hybrids in the cattail genus which occur in North America (Smith 1961, 1962, 1967). T. latifolia fruits are about 1 cm long with hairs arising near the base.
Diagnostic Characteristics: Typha latifolia, broad-leaved cattail, is distinguished from T. angustifolia, narrow-leaved cattail, by the relative width of the leaf and the position of the staminate and pistillate portions of the spadix (heads). Typha latifolia has 6-23 mm wide leaves that are flat, sheathing, and pale grayish-green in color. T. angustifolia has 3-8 mm wide leaves that are full green and somewhat convex on back (Agricultural Rea. Service 1971). In T. latifolia the staminate and pistillate heads are contiguous or nearly so, whereas in T. angustifolia the heads are separated by approximately 3 cm.

Cattail fruits differ among the two major species. T. angustifolia fruits are about 5-8 mm long with hairs arising above the middle. T. latifolia fruits are about 1 cm long with hairs arising near the base (Agricultural Rea. Service 1971).

Reproduction Comments: Cattails flower in late May and June and sometimes later (up to late July) depending, perhaps, on soil and water temperatures as influenced by climate and litter in a stand. The wind-borne pollen attaches to stigmas of female florets to eventually produce achene fruits. The elongated embryo and stalk are covered with fine, unmatted hairs that aid in wind dispersal. Fruits are mature in August and September. Seeds are very small, weighing 0.055 mg each (Keddy and Ellis 1985).

Many cattail germination studies have been conducted. Some of these suggest that germination requirements are few. Seed germination can be 100 percent in slightly flooded conditions (Smith 1967). Typha latifolia seeds are less tolerant to salt (NaCl) concentrations in the substrate when compared to T. angustifolia seeds. However, seeds of both species which had been soaked in salt solution would germinate after being returned to non-saline conditions (McMillan 1959). Other studies have confirmed that water is required at a depth of 2.54 cm for germination. Sifton (1959) showed light and low oxygen tensions affected germination of broad-leaved cattail.

Van der Valk and Davis (1976) suggested that the germination of Typha seeds could be inhibited by an allelopathic interaction caused by Typha litter. Seed longevity and dormancy may be affected by soil moisture, temperature and soil atmosphere (Schafer and Chilcote 1970, Roberts 1972, Meyer and Poljakoff-Mayber 1963, Morinaga 1926).

Young Typha shoots grow rapidly from seeds in favorable substrates. Cattail colonies are commonly maintained by vegetative reproduction. A perennial root stock is the major organ responsible for reproduction (Apfelbaum 1985). Cattail productivity has been well documented. Net annual production has usually been estimated as the maximum standing crop (shoot biomass) values for a good site are generally between 1000 and 1700 g/m (d.w.) (Gustafson 1976). Figures for Typha production mostly exceed the average standing crop yields for maize and sorghum.

Shoot density reports (numbers of stems per square meter) range from 28/m2 (Curtis 1959) in Wisconsin to an extreme example reported by Dykyjova, et al. (1971) of 108/m2. In a greenhouse experiment, ninety-eight vegetative shoots and 104 crown buds were produced on a single seedling during it's first year (Timmons et al. 1963). Cattails can produce 20,000-700,000 fruits per inflorescence (Prunster 1941, Marsh 1962, Yeo 1964). Vegetative growth by broad-leaved cattails of 518 cm (17 feet) annually have been recorded (McDonald 1951), and plants grown from seed flowered the second year (Smith 1967, Yeo 1964).

Cattail plants produce a dense rhizome mat and the clustered leaves produce a thick litter layer. Dense cattail growth and litter may reduce the opportunity for other plants to establish or survive (Wesson and Waring 1969).

Ecology Comments: The structure of cattail stands as it is, with upright leaves, high leaf area, balanced horizontal and vertical distribution of leaf area and shifts in leaf angle are all factors which permit monoculture success. An open, generously sunny habitat and abundant moisture can provide the setting for maximum cattail production.

Typha plants are mined by caterpillars of the moths Arzama opbliqua and Nonagria oblonga (Klots 1966). Aphids and Colandra pertinaux (the snout beetle) also feed on Typha leaves and stems. The stems may have many species of pupa living within them (Klots 1966). The cattail rhizomes provide food to mammals such as the muskrat. The grazing of muskrats may greatly influence cattail communities. A cycling population of muskrats may reach such a density so as to totally set back a cattail stand for the season. These "eat outs" are important to maintain open water in a balanced system. Muskrats utilize leaves and stems for houses and eat the rhizomes (Zimmerman pers. comm.). Cattail fruits provide nesting material for terrestrial birds and dry stems may be used by aquatic birds.

Above ground portions die in the late fall and rhizomes overwinter. In Wisconsin, it was found that average winter marsh temperatures greater then 8 degrees C reduced carbohydrate reserves in Typha latifolia to an extent sufficient to inhibit shoot growth in the spring (Adriano et al. 1980). Cattail population success has been correlated with nutrient fertility (Boyd 1971), water level and substrate temperature (Adriano et al. 1980).

The plant tissues can store relatively high concentrations of some metals. Typha appears to have an internal copper and nickel tolerance mechanism. It is not likely that there is an evolutionary selection for heavy metal tolerance, but rather it is inherent in the species (Taylor and Crowder 1984).

Estuarine Habitat(s): Herbaceous wetland
Palustrine Habitat(s): Bog/fen, HERBACEOUS WETLAND
Habitat Comments: Cattails have a cosmopolitan distribution and a wide ecological amplitude. Typha can be found in wetlands, sedge meadows, along slow moving streams, river banks, and lake shores. The plant is found in areas of widely fluctuating water levels such as roadside ditches, reservoirs and other disturbed wet soil areas. Cattails commonly invade the pelagic zones of bogs (Gustafson 1976). Typical associates include Phragmites australiis, Lythrum salicaria, Spartina sp., Acorus calamus, Scirpus sp., and Sagittaria latifolia.

Typha latifolia is the only species of cattail usually found in relatively undisturbed habitats (Smith 1967). It is found throughout North America from sea level to 2134 M (7000 feet) elevation. The tolerance of T. latifolia to high concentrations of lead, zinc, copper, and nickel has been demonstrated (Taylor and Crowder 1984). This species has been employed in secondary waste water treatment schemes (Gopal and Sharma 1980).

Narrow-leaved cattail can grow in deeper water compared to T. latifolia, although both species reach maximum growth at a water depth of 50 cm (20 inches) (Grace and Wetzel 1981). A robust hybrid between narrow-leaved and broad-leaved cattail, Typha x glauca, has similar habitat requirements to T. angustifolia.

Typha latifolia is found in the most favorable sites where it competes against other species. T. angustifolia and T. domingensis are restricted to less favorable and more saline habitats when they occur with T. latifolia (Gustafson 1976). Typha latifolia often displaces T. angustifolia in shallow (<15 cm) water, restricting the latter species to deep water (Grace and Wetzel 1981). Theodore Cochran (pers. comm), of the University of Wisconsin-Madison herbarium states that most early herbarium specimens are T. latifolia and only recently have T. angustifolia specimens been collected from Wisconsin wetlands.

Cattails can grow on a wide gradient of substrate types. Wet pure sand, peat, clay and loamy soils have been documented under cattail stands. World wide distribution of cattails is summarized by Morton (1975).

Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 27Oct1987
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: K. MOTIVANS, S. APFELBAUM, MRO
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 27Oct1987
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): K. MOTIVANS, S. APFELBAUM, MRO

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Bayly, I.L., and T.A. O'Neill. 1971. A study of introgression in Typha at Point Pelee marsh, Ontario. Canadian Field-Naturalist 85: 309-314.

  • Ciotir, C., H. Kirk, J. Row and J. R. Freeland. 2013. Intercontinental dispersal of Typha angustifolia and T. latifolia between Europe and North America has implications for Typha invasions. Biological Invasions 15: 1377?1390.

  • Ciotir, C., and J. Freeland. 2016. Cryptic intercontinental dispersal, commercial retailers, and the genetic diversity of native and non-native cattails (Typha spp.) in North America. Hydrobiologia 768(1): 137-150.

  • Cody, W.J. 1988. Plants of Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba. Agriculture Canada, Publication 1818/E, Ottawa ON.

  • Cody, W.J., C.E. Kennedy and B. Bennett. 2001. New records of vascular plants in the Yukon Territory III. Canadian Field-Naturalist 115(2): 301-322.

  • Cody, W.J., C.E. Kennedy, and B. Bennett. 2000. New records of vascular plants in the Yukon Territory II. Canadian Field-Naturalist 114(3): 417-443.

  • Crow, G.E.and C.B. Hellquist. 1981. Aquatic Vascular Plants of New England: Part 2. Typhaceae and Sparganiaceae. Bulletin 517, New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station, University of New Hampshire, Durham. 21 pp.

  • Deam, C. C. 1940. Flora of Indiana. Division of Forestry, Dept. of Conservation, Indianapolis, Indiana. 1236 pp.

  • Douglas, G.W., D. Meidinger, and J. Pojar, eds. 2001b. Illustrated Flora of British Columbia, Vol. 7, Monocotyledons (Orchidaceae through Zosteraceae). B.C. Minist. Sustainable Resour. Manage., and B.C. Minist. For. Victoria, BC. 379pp.

  • Douglas, G.W., G.W. Argus, H.L. Dickson, and D.F. Brunton. 1981. The rare vascular plants of the Yukon. Syllogeus No. 28. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. 61 pp.

  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2000. Flora of North America north of Mexico. Vol. 22. Magnoliophyta: Alismatidae, Arecidae, Commelinidae (in part), and Zingiberidae. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. xxiii + 352 pp.

  • Freeland, J. R., C. Ciotir, and H. Kirk. 2013. Regional differences in the abundance of native, introduced, and hybrid Typha spp. in northeastern North America influence wetland invasions. Biological Invasions 15: 2651?2665.

  • Herbarium, Department of Botany, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

  • Herbarium, Museum of Man and Nature, 190 Rupert Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

  • Hulten, E. 1968. Flora of Alaska and neighboring territories. Stanford Univ. Press, Palo Alto, CA. 1008 pp.

  • Hultén, E. 1950. Flora of Alaska and Yukon: X: Dicotyledoneae Campanulatae 2 (Compositae) Supplement, bibliography, general index to the entire flora. Lund, Sweden. pp. 1485-1902.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1996. Species distribution data at state and province level for vascular plant taxa of the United States, Canada, and Greenland (accepted records), from unpublished data files at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, December, 1996.

  • Kuehn, M.M. and B.N. White. 1999. Morphological analysis of genetically identified cattails Typha latifolia, Typha angustifolia and Typha xglauca. Canadian Journal of Botany 77: 906-912.

  • Porsild, A.E. 1975. Materials for a flora of central Yukon Territory. Publications in Botany No. 4. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

  • Porsild, A.E., and H.A. Crum. 1961. The vascular flora of Liard Hotsprings, B.C., with notes on some bryophytes. Bulletin National Museum of Canada 171:131-197.

  • Scoggan, H.J. 1957. Flora of Manitoba. National Museum of Canada, Bulletin number 140.

  • Scoggan, H.J. 1978. The Flora of Canada. National Museum of Natural Sciences, National Museum of Canada, Publ. in Botany 7(4).

  • Small, E. and P.M. Catling. 2001. Poorly Known Economic Plants of Canada - 28. Catttail, Typha spp.. CBA/ABC Bulletin 34 (1) February pp. 8-14.

  • Swink, F., and G. Wilhelm. 1994. Plants of the Chicago Region. Morton Arboretum. Lisle, Illinois.

  • Wildlife Management Information System (WMIS). 2006+. Geo-referenced wildlife datasets (1900 to present) from all projects conducted by Environment and Natural Resources, Government of the Northwest Territories, Canada.  Available at http://www.enr.gov.nt.ca/programs/wildlife-research/wildlife-management-information-services

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