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Typha angustifolia - L.

Common Name Small Reed Mace, Narrowleaf cattail
Family Typhaceae
USDA hardiness 3-7
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Water up to 15cm deep, avoiding acid conditions[17]. Often somewhat brackish or subsaline water or wet soil in America, growing from sea level to elevations of 1900 metres[270].
Range Throughout the world from the Arctic to latitude 30° S, including Britain but absent from Africa.
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Wet Soil Water Plants Full sun
Typha angustifolia Small Reed Mace, Narrowleaf cattail

Typha angustifolia Small Reed Mace, Narrowleaf cattail


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Typha angustifolia is a PERENNIAL growing to 3 m (9ft) by 3 m (9ft).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 3. It is in flower from June to July. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Wind.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers wet soil and can grow in water.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

 Pond; Bog Garden;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves  Oil  Pollen  Root  Seed  Shoots  Stem
Edible Uses: Oil

Roots - raw or cooked[12, 13, 46, 94]. They can be boiled and eaten like potatoes or macerated and then boiled to yield a sweet syrup[183]. The roots can also be dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickener in soups etc or added to cereal flours[62]. Rich in protein, this powder is used to make biscuits etc[183]. Young shoots in spring - raw or cooked[2, 12, 94, 159, 183]. An asparagus substitute[62]. Base of mature stem - raw or cooked[62]. It is best to remove the outer part of the stem[62]. Young flowering stem - raw, cooked or made into a soup[85, 94, 183]. It tastes like sweet corn. Seed - cooked[183]. The seed is very small and fiddly to harvest, but it has a pleasant nutty taste when roasted[12]. An edible oil is obtained from the seed[85]. Due to the small size of the seed this is probably not a very worthwhile crop. Pollen - raw or cooked. A protein rich additive to flour used in making bread, porridge etc[12, 105, 183]. It can also be eaten with the young flowers[85], which makes it considerably easier to utilize[K]. The pollen can be harvested by placing the flowering stem over a wide but shallow container and then gently tapping the stem and brushing the pollen off with a fine brush[9]. This will help to pollinate the plant and thereby ensure that both pollen and seeds can be harvested[K].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Anticoagulant  Diuretic  Emmenagogue  Haemostatic  Lithontripic  Miscellany

The pollen is diuretic, emmenagogue and haemostatic[176]. The dried pollen is said to be anticoagulant, but when roasted with charcoal it becomes haemostatic[238]. It is used internally in the treatment of kidney stones, internal haemorrhage of almost any kind, painful menstruation, abnormal uterine bleeding, post-partum pains, abscesses and cancer of the lymphatic system[222, 238, 254]. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women[238]. Externally, it is used in the treatment of tapeworms, diarrhoea and injuries[238]. An infusion of the root has been used in the treatment of gravel[257].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Biomass  Insulation  Miscellany  Oil  Paper  Soil stabilization  Stuffing  Thatching  Tinder  Weaving

The stems and leaves have many uses, they make a good thatch, can be used in making paper, can be woven into mats, chairs, hats etc[13, 46, 57, 61, 94]. They are a good source of biomass, making an excellent addition to the compost heap or used as a source of fuel etc. The hairs of the fruits are used for stuffing pillows etc[46, 57, 159]. They have good insulating and buoyancy properties[171]. The female flowers make an excellent tinder and can be lit from the spark of a flint[212]. The pollen is highly inflammable and is used in making fireworks[115]. This plants extensive root system makes it very good for stabilizing wet banks of rivers, lakes etc[200].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Experimental Crop  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Industrial Crop: Fiber  Management: Hay  Staple Crop: Protein

A very easily grown plant, it grows in boggy pond margins or in shallow water up to 15cm deep[17]. It requires a rich soil if it is to do well[17]. Succeeds in sun or part shade. A very invasive plant spreading freely at the roots when in a suitable site, it is not suitable for growing in small areas. Unless restrained by some means, such as a large bottomless container, the plant will soon completely take over a site and will grow into the pond, gradually filling it in. This species will often form an almost complete monoculture in boggy soil. The dense growth provides excellent cover for water fowl[1].

Carbon Farming

  • Experimental Crop  Plant breeders are testing these plants to see if they could be domesticated for cultivation, but they are still in an experimental phase. Examples include milkweed and leafy spurge.
  • Industrial Crop: Biomass  Three broad categories: bamboos, resprouting woody plants, and giant grasses. uses include: protein, materials (paper, building materials, fibers, biochar etc.), chemicals (biobased chemicals), energy - biofuels
  • Industrial Crop: Fiber  Clothing, rugs, sheets, blankets etc. Currently, almost none of our fiber are produced from perennial crops but could be!
  • Management: Hay  Cut to the ground and harvested annually. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Staple Crop: Protein  (16+ percent protein, 0-15 percent oil). Annuals include beans, chickpeas, lentils, cowpeas, and pigeon peas. Perennials include perennial beans, nuts, leaf protein concentrates, and edible milks.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - surface sow in a pot and stand it in 3cm of water. Pot up the young seedlings as soon as possible and, as the plants develop, increase the depth of water. Plant out in summer. Division in spring. Very easy, harvest the young shoots when they are about 10 - 30cm tall, making sure there is at least some root attached, and plant them out into their permanent positions.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

Rikardo Bonino   Fri May 6 01:34:36 2005

Just want to know whether this plant has phytoremediation properties

Steve Klaber   Thu Dec 7 2006

please bombard the various famine control organizations with this material about typha in general. The famine areas in Africa are infested with various forms of this plant to the tune of thousands of square miles. It chokes lakes, rivers, irrigation ditches, and breeds mosquitoes and agricultural pests. Harvested for food, it could feed the whole continent. As it is, it's causing starvation. It expands in the same conditions that cause the famine- long drought punctuated by flood, so its management is a real key to ending famine forever.

Stephen Klaber   Mon May 14 2007

Known hazard for all of the typha family: They absorb and retain pollutants, storing them primarily in the rootstock (rhizomes). It is used for clarifying water and cleansing soil. Any knowledge of how to cleanse the food would be greatly appreciated. There are HUGE typha infestations plaguing all of the famine stricken areas in Africa, but some are contaminated.

Archana Banerjee   Tue Sep 4 2007

pollen collected and cooked as 'halwa' as delicious health food; possess antioxidant activity

Teresa Seed   Tue Nov 18 2008

Alcohol can be a gas Cat-tails (typha latifolia/angustifolia) are strongly touted as feedstock for producing alcohol for vehicle fuel - VERY interesting.

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