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Name derivation:

Tufh (Gr.) = Typha – cattail or bulrush.

Common names include ‘cattail’, ‘catninetail’, ‘punks’, ‘cumbungi’ in Australia, ‘raupō’ in New Zealand.


Typha Linnaeus

Order Typhales;  Family Typhaceae

Perennial monocot.  Monoecious.


Alternate basal leaves on a floral stem bearing flowering spikes.

Incomplete (unisexual) male flowers with two stamens, short-lived after pollination, are on a narrow spike at the apex of flowering spike.  Female flowers are located beneath males where the flowering spike has a larger girth and has a wiener-shape up to 30 cm long and 1-4 cm diameter.  Seeds are 0.2 (200 µm) long with hairs for enhancing wind dispersion.

Rhizomes sprout new plants, enabling a rapid increase in populations when they are newly established (similar to many rhizomatous aquatic plants).  Well-developed aerenchyma in emergent stem and leaves aid in supplying oxygen to rhizomes and roots.


Similar genera:



Global distribution in wetlands.

Open sunny shallow freshwater habitats (marshes, rivers, lakes).  Early colonizers of freshly exposed organic mud.  Does not grow in shaded areas, e.g. under tree foliage.

Phragmites (‘common reed’) is now invasive in NE US, and competes with Typha, displacing it in some sites.

Experiments with two species in man-made ponds at Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University on Gull Lake, MI USA demonstrated habitat separation in depth of realized distribution.  T. latifolia and T. angustifolia both thrive between 20-50 cm water depth, while the latter can extend its range to more than 1 m depth.  When the two species co-occur in the same water body, they are generally separated along a similar depth gradient (Grace and Wetzel 1981).

Invasion of the Everglades (Florida USA) by Typha domingensis is displacing Cladium jamaicense (a sedge – Cyperaceae) is likely due to phosphorus pollution.  C. jamaicense dominated in shallow low phosphorus areas, typical of pre-polluted Everglades habitats (Newman et al. 1996).

Muskrats feed on Typha leaves, and construct dens from them.



Grace, J.B. and R.G. Wetzel  1981.  Habitat partitioning and competitive displacement in cattails (Typha):  Experimental field studies.  The American Naturalist 118(4):463-474.

Newman, S., J.B. Grace and J.W. Koebel  1996.  Effects of nutrients and hydroperiod on Typha, Cladium, and Eleocharis:  Implications for Everglades restoration.  Ecological Applications 6(3):774-783