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

U.S. Geological SurveyCopyright Info

Le.Loup.Gris (commons.wikimedia.org)Copyright Info

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)

Great Lakes 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.

Table 1. Great Lakes region nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state/province, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Typha angustifolia are found here.

Full list of USGS occurrences

State/ProvinceYear of earliest observationYear of last observationTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
Indiana200820083Little Calumet-Galien; St. Joseph; St. Joseph
Michigan1877201752Au Sable; Betsie-Platte; Betsy-Chocolay; Black-Macatawa; Black-Presque Isle; Boardman-Charlevoix; Brule; Cedar-Ford; Cheboygan; Clinton; Dead-Kelsey; Detroit; Escanaba; Fishdam-Sturgeon; Great Lakes Region; Huron; Kalamazoo; Kawkawlin-Pine; Keweenaw Peninsula; Lake Erie; Lake Huron; Lake Michigan; Lake St. Clair; Lake Superior; Little Calumet-Galien; Lower Grand; Manistee; Menominee; Michigamme; Muskegon; Northeastern Lake Michigan; Northwestern Lake Huron; Ontonagon; Ottawa-Stony; Pere Marquette-White; Pigeon-Wiscoggin; Pine; Raisin; Shiawassee; Southeastern Lake Michigan; Southwestern Lake Huron; St. Clair; St. Clair-Detroit; St. Joseph; St. Marys; Sturgeon; Tacoosh-Whitefish; Tahquamenon; Thornapple; Thunder Bay; Tittabawassee; Western Lake Erie
Minnesota200820131St. Louis
New York1880201416Chaumont-Perch; Eastern Lake Erie; Great Lakes Region; Irondequoit-Ninemile; Lake Ontario; Lower Genesee; Northeastern Lake Ontario; Oak Orchard-Twelvemile; Oneida; Oswego; Oswego; Salmon-Sandy; Saranac River; Seneca; Southwestern Lake Ontario; St. Lawrence
Ohio2008201310Ashtabula-Chagrin; Auglaize; Black-Rocky; Cedar-Portage; Cuyahoga; Huron-Vermilion; Lake Erie; Sandusky; Southern Lake Erie; Western Lake Erie
Pennsylvania200820141Lake Erie
Wisconsin2006201721Bad-Montreal; Beartrap-Nemadji; Black-Presque Isle; Brule; Door-Kewaunee; Duck-Pensaukee; Fox; Lake Michigan; Lake Superior; Lake Winnebago; Lower Fox; Manitowoc-Sheboygan; Menominee; Milwaukee; Northwestern Lake Michigan; Northwestern Lake Michigan; Oconto; Peshtigo; Southwestern Lake Michigan; St. Louis; Upper Fox

Table last updated 5/25/2018

† Populations may not be currently present.

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

Great Lakes Impacts:  

Typha angustifolia has high environmental impacts in the Great Lakes.
Typha angustifolia can out-compete native species in a variety of wetland ecosystems and its presence limits biodiversity (Forest Health Staff 2006, Ohio EPA 2001). High seed production and wind dispersal enable seeds to reach newly disturbed sites or areas of disturbance within a colonized site (Grace and Harrison 1986 in Miklovic 2000). Typha angustifolia is especially invasive in disturbed wetlands and readily forms dense, monotypic stands that shade out other species (Ohio EPA 2001, Stevens and Hoag 2006). Narrow-leaved cattail is also tolerant of saline conditions and uses this tolerance to out-compete less tolerant species (Miklovic 2000).

When growing at a depth at or exceeding 0.25 m, populations of T. angustifolia can expand at a rate of 1 m per year (Weisner 1993). Reports of cattail dominated habitats have greatly increased in the Midwest over the last few decades (Borland et al. 2009).  Dense root and rhizome mats produce a thick layer of litter that prohibits the growth of many other plants species (Forest Health Staff 2006). Stable water levels and stands of dead stems result in litter accumulation, which can alter nutrient levels and species diversity in benthic communities. In studies where cattail litter was added to test sites, native wetland plants such as marsh bellflower (Campanula aparinoides), bulb-bearing water-hemlock (Cicuta bulbifera), and stiff marsh bedstraw (Galium tinctorium) did not emerge. Narrow-leaved cattail has large energy reserves in its rhizomes that supply new shoots with the necessary energy to push through the litter in the spring (Vaccaro et al. 2009).

Typha angustifolia emerges earlier in the spring and grows more rapidly and taller than T. latifolia, often giving it the competitive advantage in areas where the two species coexist. In test areas, T. angustifolia slowly replaces T. latifolia, except in very shallow water (Weisner 1993).
Hybridization between T. angustifolia and T. latifolia results in the invasive Typha x glauca. Previously, it was thought that the hybrid was sterile and could only spread via growth of its rhizomes; however it is now known that some Typha x glauca individuals can reproduce sexually (McKenzie-Gopsill et al. 2012, Travis et al. 2010). Typha x glauca often grows larger and can tolerate a wider range of environmental conditions than either parent species (Borland et al. 2009, Galatowitsch 2012, Travis et al. 2010). When Typha x glauca individuals die, there is a substantial amount of dead shoots and litter that remains; especially in areas dense with Typha spp. The dead biomass effectively smothers blocks sunlight, smothers new growth, and modifies the concentration of nutrients (Galatowitsch 2012). In Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve, Indiana T. angustifolia and Typha x glauca constitute almost 100% of the vegetation in the wetlands (Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program 2007). Some experts believe T. glauca is more invasive and problematic than T. angustifolia (Reeb 2007). However, coexistence of T. angustifolia and T. latifolia does not guarantee that hybridization will occur. In Ohio, T. angustifolia blooms 2 weeks earlier than T. latifolia, leaving a short period of time when cross-pollination is possible (Selbo and Snow 2004).

Narrow-leaved cattail is thought to be allelopathic, producing chemicals that discourage growth of other plant species (Ohio EPA 2001).

There is little or no evidence to support that Typha angustifolia has significant socio-economic impacts in the Great Lakes.

Typha angustifolia has high beneficial effects in the Great Lakes.

If collected at the appropriate stage (and in some cases cooked) all parts of the narrow-leaved cattail are edible (Stevens and Hoag 2006). It is estimated that one acre of T. angustifolia would yield about 6,475 pounds of flour (from the pollen) consisting of about 80% carbohydrates and 6-8% protein (Harrington 1972 in Stevens and Hoag 2006).

In limited quantities, T. angustifolia can actually be beneficial to an ecosystem by adding food and habitat diversity (Miklovic 2000). Its seeds are eaten by several duck species; however, they are not as nutritious as those of native species (Stevens and Hoag 2006). Muskrats, beavers, and rats eat the stalks and roots of narrow-leaved cattail (MNDNR 2012). It provides cover and nesting habitat for waterfowl and marsh birds such as the red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) (MNDNR 2012, Pennsylvania State Department 2006). Stands of T. angustifolia offer breeding ground and hiding places for numerous invertebrates and small fish (Fell et al. 2003, Olson et al. 1999). When planted along shorelines, this cattail can provide habitat for largemouth bass and northern pike (MNDNR 2012, United States Forest Service 2012). Other organisms often found in stands of T. angustifolia include leeches, crustaceans, mollusks, and insects such as dragonflies and damselflies (Olson et al. 1999, Su et al. 2007). For Swan Lake, Minnesota (located outside the Great Lakes watershed), it is recommended that the lake be managed to encourage T. angustifolia expansion to help increase the biomass of macroinvertebrates for young waterfowl to eat (Olson et al. 1999).

Typha spp. serve as important nutrient reservoirs (Su et al. 2007). Narrow-leaved cattail is used in prairie wetland restoration (United States Forest Service 2012). It can also be planted along lakes and ponds to both stabilize marsh areas and protect shores from erosion (MNDNR 2012).
Typha angustifolia can be planted in constructed wetlands (CWs) to aid in tertiary water treatment (Stevens and Hoag 2006). CWs in Canada with monocultures of T. angustifolia were able to remove between 94%-99% of the pollutants (primarily nitrogen and phosphorus) from highly concentrated fish farm waste (Gagnon et al. 2012). CWs tend to emit higher levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) than natural wetlands. However, Maltais-Landry et al. (2009) reports that of the CWs tested, those planted solely with T. angustifolia emitted the lowest levels of GHG.

Typha angustifolia was able to remove lead, iron, manganese, copper, zinc, and nickel from aqueous solutions and was especially effective at taking up the latter three (Chandra and Yadav 2010, Muhammad et al. 2009). Typha angustifolia showed no signs of toxicity after 30 days exposure to 1 mM chromium, cadmium, or lead. During the experiments with lead, narrow-leaved cattail increased its uptake of calcium, iron, and zinc (Bah et al. 2011). Narrow-leaved cattail is tolerant of cadmium and may be able to remove it from soils via phytoremediation (Xu et al. 2011). Jomjun et al. (2011) demonstrated that T. angustifolia is capable of removing 56 mg of arsenic per m2 soil per day. Typha angustifolia is tolerant of relatively high concentrations of hexachlorobenzene and its two metabolites and may therefore be useful in phytoremediation of these pollutants (Ma and Havelka 2009).

Narrow-leaved cattail can also absorb synthetic dyes, making it a possible plant for treating complex wastewaters (Nilratnisakorn et al. 2007). There has also been some initial success using T. angustifolia in constructed wetlands to remove pharmaceuticals and personal care products from urban waste water (Hijosa-Valsero et al. 2011, Reyes-Contreras et al. 2012). Given the variety of pollutants that T. angustifolia can absorb, it has the potential to be used in complex phytoremediation and constructed wetlands.

A stand of cattails can act as a nutrient regulator in aquatic ecosystems, taking up nutrients when they are overly abundant and releasing nutrients when there is a deficit. This regulation of nutrients can play an important role in controlling phytoplankton blooms (Mason and Bryant 1975). Typha angustifolia also contains three phenic acids, which act as allelochemicals and may further control algal blooms in eutrotrophic waters (Zhang et al. 2011).

Narrow-leaved cattail pollen has been used for the treatment of dysmenorrhea, stranguria, and metrorrhagia in China (Tao et al. 2011). Oxidative stress, which is usually associated with inflammatory bowel disease, was reduced in rats whose diets included T. angustifolia rhizome flour (Fruet et al. 2012).


Regulations (pertaining to the Great Lakes)
This species is restricted in Wisconsin; it may not be transported, transferred, or introduced into any ecosystem (Bureau of Plant Industry 2012).

Note: Check federal, state/provincial, and local regulations for the most up-to-date information.

Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) populations can have a serious impact on Typha populations; however, large populations of muskrats can shift to other plants species and have a long-term detrimental effect on the vegetation community (Miklovic 2000).

The native boring-moth larvae (Arzama spp.) have been reported to cause damage to Typha stands, but their use as a species specific biological control is unknown (Miklovic 2000).

Heavy grazing will eliminate Typha spp. from riparian corridors; however, this technique might also affect other native species (Stevens and Hoag 2006).

Mowing during the growing season, once just before the flowers reach maturity and again about a month later (when new growth is 2-3 feet high), will kill at least 75% of narrow-leaved cattails (Stevens and Hoag 2006).

Burning may also be effective at controlling Typha; however, it needs to be repeated several times. Unless the flames have access to the belowground portions of cattails, the rhizomes will resprout and grow new plants (Forest Health Staff 2006, United States Forest Service 2012). This treatment option might also be unfeasible in wet ecosystems or sensitive natural areas (Miklovic 2000).

Typha spp. are sensitive to the ethanol produced from anaerobic respiration. Flooding a wetland could trigger this reaction and help control Typha (Miklovic 2000). Manually digging up plants or cutting stems, followed by raising the water level by 3 inches above the plants will yield effective control, as well (Forest Health Staff 2006).

Typha spp. can be controlled by 2,4-D, glyphosate (Rodeo®, Eagre®, AquaNeat®, Pondmaster®, Aquapro®, Avocet®, Shore-Klear®, Touchdown Pro®), impazapyr (Arsenal AC®, Habitat®, Chopper®, Aquapier®, Gullwing Avocet®), and diquat (Harvester®, Redwing®, Reward®, Weedtrine D®) (Bureau 2005, Forest Health Staff 2006, Forestry 2011, Foundation 2012). Glyphosate can result in greater than 80% control (Thorsness et al. 1992 in Miklovic).

Wick, broom, and/or foliar applications are appropriate techniques for these herbicides (Borland et al. 2009, Forest Health Staff 2006, Ohio EPA 2001). Due to the energy reserves in the extensive root system, re-treatments may be necessary (Ohio EPA 2001).

Note: Check state/provincial and local regulations for the most up-to-date information regarding permits for control methods. Follow all label instructions.

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.

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

Contributing Agencies:

Revision Date: 10/5/2012

Citation for this information:
Cao, L., L. Berent, and A. Fusaro, 2018, Typha angustifolia L.: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, and NOAA Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, Ann Arbor, MI, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/greatlakes/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=2679&Potential=N&Type=0, Revision Date: 10/5/2012, Access Date: 6/21/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.