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cattail – Typha spp.

Cat Tail —

Caution: Cattails can be confused with poisonous members of the iris family. Water irises often share the same pond as cattails. However, cattails are easily distinguishable from water irises as their leaves wrap around the stalk of the plant like a leek. Iris leaves, on the other hand, are flat and spread out like a fan or palm frond. Cattails also generally grow in much denser patches than water irises. Mature cattails display a cottony brown head, which most people are familiar with. Finally, if water purity is in question, refrain from eating cattails as they absorb toxins as well as nutrients from the water.

Edible: Roots, rootstocks, young shoots, young heads and pollen

Flavour: Roots, rootstocks and young shoots taste and look a lot like zucchini. The young heads are a bit like corn on a cob when boiled.

Description: Cattails grow in wetlands. They are often found growing in ponds and around lakeshores. Plants are tall and slender and can reach eight feet in height. Leaves grow wrapped around the stalk the way the leaves of a common leek wrap around inner leaves. Mature cattails display brown cotton-like heads.



Edible Uses: Young shoots and heads can be eaten raw or cooked. Shoots taste great in salads, soups, and stews. The tender young pollen spike (head) can be boiled and eaten like corn on the cob. Roots can be dried and ground into flour for baking.

Medical Uses: 

Nutritional Highlight: Cattails contain about 30 percent complex carbohydrates. Compared to other wild edibles, cattails are high in calories, which makes them a good energy food. Cattails are a great source of vitamins A and C, plus potassium and phosphorus.

Helpful Tips: When harvesting cattails, you will notice a lubricating slime seeping from the plant’s leaves. This slimy substance is incredibly healing for the skin. Use it on sunburns like you would aloe gel

ID Trick: Circular leaves that wrap around one another. Tall, thin stems with a cottony brown head.

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