Typha angustifolia

Common name: Small Reed Mace Family: Typhaceae
Author: L. Botanical references: 17, 200
Known Hazards: None known
Range: Throughout the world from the Arctic to latitude 30° S, including Britain but absent from Africa.
Habitat: Water up to 15cm deep, avoiding acid conditions17.
Edibility Rating (1-5): 5 Medicinal Rating (1-5): 3
Other Possible Synonyms: From various places across the web, may not be correct. See below.
T. angustifolia var. calumetensisB,P T. angustifolia var. elongataB,P
Other Common Names: From various places around the Web, may not be correct. See below.
Espandana E, Kleine Lisdodde D, Lesser Bulrush L, Narrow-leaf Cat-tail B, Narrow-leaved Cattail FEIS, Narrowleaf Cattail L,P, Totora E,
Epithets: From a Dictionary of Botanical Epithets
angustifolia = narrow leaved;
Systematics: From a UDSA Plants Database
Order: Typhales. Cat-tail family
Other Range Info: From the Ethnobotany Database
Argentina; Chile; Us

Physical Characteristics

Perennial growing to 3m by 3m . It is hardy to zone 3. It is in flower from June to July. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind. It is noted for attracting wildlife. We rate it 5/5 for edibility and 3/5 for medicinal use.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires wet soil and can grow in water.

Habitats and Possible Locations

Pond, Bog Garden.

Edible Uses

Flowers; Leaves; Oil; Pollen; Root; Seed; Stem.

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 syrup183. The roots can also be dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickener in soups etc or added to cereal flours62. Rich in protein, this powder is used to make biscuits etc183. Young shoots in spring – raw or cooked2, 12, 94, 159, 183. An asparagus substitute62. Base of mature stem – raw or cooked62. It is best to remove the outer part of the stem62. Young flowering stem – raw, cooked or made into a soup85, 94, 183. It tastes like sweet corn. Seed – cooked183. The seed is very small and fiddly to harvest, but it has a pleasant nutty taste when roasted12. An edible oil is obtained from the seed85. 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 etc12, 105, 183. It can also be eaten with the young flowers85, which makes it considerably easier to utilizeK. 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 brush9. This will help to pollinate the plant and thereby ensure that both pollen and seeds can be harvestedK.

Medicinal Uses

Anticoagulant; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Haemostatic; Lithontripic.

The pollen is diuretic, emmenagogue and haemostatic

176. The dried pollen is said to be anticoagulant, but when roasted with charcoal it becomes haemostatic238. 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 system222, 238, 254. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women238. Externally, it is used in the treatment of tapeworms, diarrhoea and injuries238. An infusion of the root has been used in the treatment of gravel257.

Other Uses

Biomass; Insulation; Miscellany; 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 etc46, 57, 159. They have good insulating and buoyancy properties171. The female flowers make an excellent tinder and can be lit from the spark of a flint212. The pollen is highly inflammable and is used in making fireworks115. This plants extensive root system makes it very good for stabilizing wet banks of rivers, lakes etc200.

Cultivation details

A very easily grown plant, it grows in boggy pond margins or in shallow water up to 15cm deep17. It requires a rich soil if it is to do well17. 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 fowl1.


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.