Cattail Facts


Cattails are useful plants found in ditches, marshes and along ponds and riverbanks. They are valuable as a food and shelter source for insects and animals and effective in preventing erosion. Humans use this interesting plant for autumn-themed floral arrangements and other needs. Cattails are fascinating to many because in the autumn, the brown cylinder bursts, releasing the cotton-like seeds in the wild.


  • Cattails grow on stems reaching heights of 10 feet and are perennial aquatic plants. The leaves resemble grass and are long and narrow, about 1 inch wide. The cattail's flower section has a brown, cylinder-shaped section with a yellow spike and blooms from May to August. The flower bursts open in the fall and releases the seeds. Cattails normally grow in dense stands near rivers, ponds, ditches and in marshes.

Food Source

  • Cattails are a food source for Canadian geese, muskrats, many insects and stagnant pond snails. Many birds find the soft texture of the seeds appropriate for lining their nests. Muskrats construct lodges that are sometimes up to 5 feet high and 8 feet wide out of the cattail plants.

Source of Shelter

  • Cattails grow in dense stands providing shelter and hiding places for many animals. Snakes, fish and bullfrogs hide among the cattails. White-tailed deer, raccoons and wild turkeys often hide and seek shelter near the tall plants. Red-winged blackbirds use the cattails as a perch, building their nests on them as well. Salamanders and frogs often lay eggs amongst the cattails. Canadian geese and mallard ducks build their nests in the dense stands as well.

Human Uses

  • People who enjoy living off the land like the cattail since all parts are edible. Many people plant them to prevent erosion on their land near ponds and riverbanks. The leaves are used for weaving chair bottoms, mats and baskets. The fluffy seeds are stuffed inside pillows and coats providing softness and insulation. The stems are useful in making adhesives and the pollen is sometimes used in fireworks.

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