Knowing the life cycle of the cattail can make it easier to understand how to use cattails as a food source or to get rid of cattails in your pond. Cattails are edible at almost every stage in their life cycle. They can quickly take over the shallow parts of your home pond, making fishing difficult, housing noisy frogs and crickets, and making nesting grounds for aggressive geese and magpies.
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Before the cattail grows each year, it stores energy in the rhizomes, which are similar in structure to potatoes or tubers. New stands of cattails can begin as seed, but cattails from rhizomes are stronger.
In early spring, the cattail sends up young shoots that can be mistaken for wild daffodils and irises. The cattails are much taller, up to 9 feet in some areas.
Cattail flowers live on one stalk, with the male pollen-bearing portion at the top and the female seed-making portion on the bottom. The male parts create a lot of golden pollen, and the female portions look a bit like hot dogs on a stick.
The fuzzy masses that hold the seeds tend to overwinter, staying attached throughout most of the cold season and then blowing away toward the end of winter.
A New Cycle
The cycle begins again the following spring, when new shoots emerge from the same rhizomes. Cattails are perennial, returning each year and repeating the same cycle.