Cattails can quickly ruin a pond's visual and recreational benefits. Control is best achieved through disruption of the root system. Cutting cattails 2 or 3 inches under the waterline 2 or 3 times to drown them can actually stimulate them if done in May. Pulling them out by the roots can be impractical.
Cattails are thickly rooted with leaf blades that are long and strap-like flat, about 1" wide, and rounded on the back. The slender stalks range between 3' and 10' tall and are topped by a cigar-shaped "cattail" called a catkin.
The catkin fruit, or seedhead, is green during early summer and turns brown and fuzzy in the fall and following spring. The cylindrical flowerspike catkin can be more than a foot long resembling a hot dog, making the cattail easily distinguishable from similar plants.
Cattails are perennial wetland plants found growing above the surface of the water in marshes, ditches, shoreline shallow areas of lakes, ponds, slow streams, quiet water up to 4 feet deep, and seasonal flood areas.
Although widespread throughout most of North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, cattails are not likely to grow in depths exceeding 18" to 24" or areas not wet most of the growing season.
Cattails are colonial plants rising from creeping stems (called rhizomes) like a branching shrub on its side. The creeping rootstock of undergound rhizomes is one means of reproduction to rapidly spread cattails locally while the seeds are another way cattails establish new colonies.
Miniature cattail is the smallest of cattails with needle thin leaves and tiny catkins. Perfect for a small water feature or pond. Cattails are commonly used by pond contractors to form a dense screen or for a vertical accent in the pond. Plants will spread aggressively, though, and are best contained in pots. They can be grown in constantly moist soil or submerged with up to 12 inches of water over the plant crown. Grow in full sun or light shade.
All parts of the plant are edible - young shoots in early spring (peeled and eaten raw or cooked), green flower heads in early summer (boiled) and even the pollen can be eaten (mix with wheat flour). Shoots off the rhizomes can be eaten from late summer to early winter, and during winter the root's core can be boiled like potatoes or ground into flour.
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