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Published In: Species Plantarum 2: 971. 1753. (1 May 1753) (Sp. Pl.) Name publication detailView in BotanicusView in Biodiversity Heritage Library

Project Name Data (Last Modified On 7/9/2009)
Acceptance : Accepted
Project Data     (Last Modified On 8/4/2009)


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1. Typha L. (cattail)

Plants perennial, with thick rhizomes, monoecious. Aerial stems erect, unbranched. Leaves mostly basal, alternate, 2‑ranked, flat, linear, parallel‑veined but lacking a thickened midrib, the bases strongly sheathing, with brown or transparent mucilage glands. Inflorescences dense, spikelike, covered by bracts during development, these withering at maturity, the staminate‑flowered portion above the pistillate‑flowered portion. Flowers minute, lacking true perianth. Staminate flowers with 2–7 linear anthers sessile or nearly so on a common stalk, this subtended by narrow, hairlike or scalelike bracts. Fertile pistillate flowers with 1 pistil on a short stalk, this with numerous, long hairs and sometimes also subtended by narrow, scalelike bracts, interspersed with nonfunctional, abortive flowers. Styles and stigmas 1 per flower. Ovules 1 per carpel. Fruits thin‑walled achenes, these dispersed with the stalk and hairs attached. About 12 species, worldwide.

Cattails are important wetland plants and provide food and shelter for a variety of animals. In some situations, however, the plants can become invasive and displace other wetland vegetation. Nearly all parts of the plants are edible and have been used as foods by Native Americans, settlers, and natural foods enthusiasts. The rhizomes are starchy and are eaten raw or cooked, or dried and ground into a flour. A jelly can be prepared from the fleshy roots. The young stems and developing inflorescences can also be cooked in various ways.


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1 Staminate and pistillate portions of the spike usually contiguous, not separated by a length of stem; pistillate flowers not subtended by bracts, the stigmas lanceolate to narrowly ovate 3 Typha latifolia
+ Staminate and pistillate portions of the spike separated by a sterile length of stem 1–10 cm long; pistillate flowers subtended by narrow, scalelike bracts, the stigmas linear to linear-lanceolate (2)
2 (1) Fruiting pistillate spikes 1–2 cm in diameter, dark brown, the subtending bracts a darker brown than the stigmas; brown mucilage glands of leaf sheaths not extending onto the leaf blades 1 Typha angustifolia
+ Fruiting pistillate spikes 2–3 cm in diameter, medium brown, the subtending bracts a lighter brown than the stigmas; brown mucilage glands of leaf sheaths extending 1–10 cm up the inner surface of the leaf blades 2 Typha domingensis
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