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Southern Cattail

(Typha domingensis)

Photo of southern cattail
Photo credit: Stan Shebs

Southern cattails are perennial wetland plants with long, slender green stalks topped with brown, fluffy, sausage-shaped flowering heads.

Overview

Other names for this plant include:
  • Common names: Tall cattail
  • Scientific names: Typha angustata
Ecological threat:
  • Invade freshwater marshes, wet meadows, fens, roadsides, ditches, shallow ponds, stream and lakeshores.
  • Play an important role as a source of food and shelter for some marsh-dwelling animals, but large mono-specific stands of invasive cattails exclude some less common species.
 Overview map of prohibited classification in WI
Prohibited (red) counties

Classification in Wisconsin: Prohibited

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for the southern cattail was based upon this literature review [PDF] developed by the department.

Identification

Leaves: Pale yellow-green leaves are alternate, long, linear, flat and sheathing. There are 6-9 leaves per stem, up to 5/8 inch wide, flat on one side and convex on the other.

Flowers: Numerous tiny flowers densely packed into a cylindrical spike at end of a stem that can grow up to 8 feet. It is divided into an upper section of yellow, male flowers and lower cinnamon brown, sausage-shaped section of female flowers. There is a gap around 2.5-5 cm between male and female flowers.

Fruits & seeds: Seeds are tiny (about 1 mm), dispersed by the wind with the aid of numerous hairs.

Roots: Plants reproduce vegetatively by means of starchy underground rhizomes to form large colonies.

Stems: Stems are pithy, simple, erect and 5-13 feet tall.

Similar species: There are other species of cattail in Wisconsin that may be confused with Southern cattail. Broad-leaved cattail (Typha latifolia) is native to WI, while narrow-leaved (T. angustifolia) and hybrids (T. glauca) are also considered invasive. Southern cattail has beige or cinnamon-colored fruiting bodies, compared to the darker auburn or brown coloration of the broad and narrow-leaved cattail fruiting spikes. Southern cattail is usually taller and has flattened and more numerous leaves than narrow-leaved cattail.

Distribution

See the reported locations of southern cattail in Wisconsin.

Do you know of additional populations? Send us a report.

Control

Mechanical: Cut all stems, both green and dead in mid to late summer or early fall. Where possible maintain a water level of a minimum of 3” above the cut stems for the entire growing season.

Chemical: Foliar spray with aquatic approved imazapyr. Herbicide applications near water may require a permit.

Photos

View Southern cattail pictures in our photo gallery!

Resources

Sources for content: Links for more information: