Typha angustifolia
Typha angustifolia
(narrow-leaved cattail)
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Typha angustifolia L.

Common name: narrow-leaved cattail

Synonyms and Other Names: Typha angustifolia var. calumetensis Peattle, Typha angustifolia var. elongata (Dudley) Wiegand, lesser reed-mace, nail-rod, small reed-mace, southern reedmace, narrowleaf cattail, narrow-leaf cat-tail

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Erect shoots 150--300 cm, not glaucous; flowering shoots 5--12 mm thick in middle; stems 2--3 mm thick near inflorescence. Leaves: sheath sides membranous, margin broadly clear, summit with membranous auricles which often disintegrate late in season; mucilage glands at sheath-blade transition brown, absent from blade and usually from sheath center near summit; widest blades on shoot 4--12 mm wide when fresh, 3--8 mm when dry; distal blade usually markedly exceeding inflorescence. Inflorescences: staminate spikes separated from pistillate by 1--8(--12) cm of naked axis, ca. as long as pistillate, 1 cm thick in anthesis; staminate scales variable in same spike, straw-colored to medium brown, filiform, simple to bifid or sometimes cuneate and irregularly branched, to 6 ï‚´ 0.1 mm; pistillate spikes in flower when fresh dark brown with whitish stigmas (drying brown), later medium brown, in fruit when fresh as stigmas wear off often greenish due to green carpodia, (4--)6--20 cm ï‚´ 5--6 mm in flower, 13--22 mm in fruit; compound pedicels in fruit peg-like, 0.5--0.7 mm; pistillate bracteole blades forming spike surface before flowering, later exceeded by stigmas and about equaling or slightly exceeded by pistil hairs, very dark to medium brown, much darker than (or sometimes as dark as) stigmas, irregularly spatulate, 0.6 ï‚´ 0.1--0.2 mm, wider than or about as wide as stigmas, apex rounded (to acute). Staminate flowers 4--6 mm; anthers 1.5--2 mm, thecae yellow, apex dark brown; pollen in monads or some in irregular clusters. Pistillate flowers 2 mm in flower, 5--7 mm in fruit; pistil-hair tips medium brown, distinctly swollen at 10--20X; stigmas sometimes deciduous in fruit, in flower erect, elongating, bending to form surface mat, white in flower, drying brownish, later medium brown, narrowly linear-lanceolate, 0.6--1.4 ï‚´ 0.1 mm; carpodia slightly exceeded by and visible among pistil hairs at mature spike surface, green when young and fresh, straw-colored with orange-brown spots when dry, apex nearly truncate. 2n = 30.  

The best time to try to distinguish T. angustifolia from the native T. latifolia is in late summer when the flowers are fully developed (Campbell et al. 2010). Typha angustifolia has narrower leaves and a 2-12 cm gap between the male and female portions of the flower (Campbell et al. 2010, Miklovic 2000).

The invasive hybrid, Typha x glauca, may be difficult to distinguish from its parent species, but typically has an intermediate leaf width and gap size (Campbell et al. 2010, Higman and Campbell 2009).

Size: to 7 feet

Native Range: Northern Africa, temperate Asia, Eurasia (GRIN)

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Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: 1st Great Lakes sighting 1880 Lake Ontario. 

B.C., Man., N.B., N.S., Ont., P.E.I., Que., Sask.; Ark., Calif., Colo., Conn., Del., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Mo., [Mont.], Nebr., Nev., N.H., N.J., N.Mex., N.Y., N.C., N.Dak., Ohio, Okla., Oreg., Pa., R.I., S.C., S.Dak., Tenn., Vt., Va., Wash., W. Va., Wis., Wyo.

Ecology: Typha angustifolia can be found in the following habitats: marshes, ditches, fens, pond and lake margins, floating bog mats, roadside ditches, irrigation canals, oxbow lakes, and backwater areas of rivers and streams (Campbell et al. 2010Stevens and Hoag 2006). Narrow-leaved cattail prefers full sun, wet conditions, and muddy soil (Wesson and Waring 1969 in Miklovic 2000). It can be found in wetlands at elevations lower than 2000 m (Stevens and Hoag 2006).  It tolerates continuous inundation, seasonal drawdowns, and brackish waters (Ohio EPA 2011, Stevens and Hoag 2006). Typha angustifolia also tolerates road salt and excessive silt and nutrients (Campbell et al. 2010). Its ability to grow rapidly and tolerate environmental stressors enables it to dominate in inhospitable niches.

In waters where both cattail species are present, T. latifolia will often be in shallower waters closer to the shorelines, whereas T. angustifolia can survive in deeper water of 2-3 m (Weisner 1993).

This perennial species flowers from late spring through early summer and those flowers mature in mid-summer (Forest Helath Staff 2006, Weisner 1993). Flowers are velvety brown, cigar-shaped spikes that are 2-6 inches in length, with a gap between the lower (female) and upper (male) flowers (Forest Health Staff 2006). Typha angustifolia allocates approximately 20% of its biomass to its sexual structures (Grace and Harrison 1986 in Miklovic 2000). The female flowers, which are fertilized by the wind, develop into tufted seeds (nutlets). Each plant can produce between 20,000- 700,000 tiny seeds, which are also wind dispersed (Borland et al. 2009, Grace and Harrison 1986 in Miklovic 2000). Narrow-leaved cattail seeds do not require a dormancy period, but often need moist soil and sunlight for germination (Baskin and Baskin 1998 in Miklovic 2000). Seeds can remain viable up to 70-100 years depending on soil conditions (Borland et al. 2009, Wienhold and van der Valk 1989 in Miklovic 2000).  Typha angustifolia also has rhizomes and is able to spread vegetatively via these structures (Forest Health Staff 2006, Stevens and Hoag 2006).

Dead cattail shoots remain standing for up to two years before collapsing (Mason and Bryant 1975).

Means of Introduction: Canals.  Some workers suggested T. angustifolia was early introduced from Europe into Atlantic Coastal North America and migrated westward (R. L. Stuckey and D. P. Salamon 1987).

Status: Established

Impact of Introduction: Ecologically, this species can be very invasive in disturbed wetlands, where it tends to invade native plant communities when hydrology, salinity, or fertility changes. In this case, they out-compete native species, often becoming monotypic stands of dense cattails. Maintaining water flows into the wetland, reducing nutrient input, and maintaining salinity in tidal marshes will help maintain desirable species composition. If cattails begin to invade, physical removal may be necessary. In recent decades it has expanded its range in many regions and become much more abundant, especially in roadside ditches and other highly disturbed habitats.  As it often out-competes many native marsh species to produce very dense, pure stands, and hybridizes with T. latifolia to form the probably even more competitive T. glauca, T. angustifolia and T. glauca should perhaps be classified as noxious weeds in parts of North America.

Remarks: Many members of the public will recognize this species as a cattail; however, they may be less aware of the fact that there are two cattail species in Illinois. Because the characteristics of Narrow-Leaved Cattail and Typha latifolia (Common Cattail) overlap and they sometimes hybridize, it can be difficult to identify a specimen plant in the wild. The hybrid plants are referred to as Typha × glauca (Hybrid Cattail) and it has characteristics of both parents. Generally, Narrow-Leaved Cattail has narrow green leaves (up to ½" across) and pistillate spikes that are up to ¾" across and 1' long. Its pistillate spike and staminate spike are separated from each other by at least ½" (usually a few inches). In contrast, Common Cattail has green to greyish blue leaves that often exceed ½" across and its pistillate spikes are larger in size (often exceeding ¾" across and 1' in length). The pistillate and staminate spikes of Common Cattail are adjacent to each other, or they are separated by a distance of ½" or less.

References: (click for full references)

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Author: Cao, L., L. Berent, and A. Fusaro

Revision Date: 10/5/2012

Citation Information:
Cao, L., L. Berent, and A. Fusaro, 2018, Typha angustifolia L.: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=2679, Revision Date: 10/5/2012, Access Date: 3/24/2018

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [3/24/2018].

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