Typha domingensis

Common name: Southern Cattail Family: Typhaceae
Author: (Pers.)Steud. Botanical references: 50, 200
Synonyms: Typha angustata (Bory-Chaubard.)
Known Hazards: None known
Range: Europe, Asia, N. America.
Habitat: Brackish to fresh marshes and pools in N. America43.
Edibility Rating (1-5): 4 Medicinal Rating (1-5): 3
Other Common Names: From various places around the Web, may not be correct. See below.
Enea E, Hime-Gama E, Jonc E, Southern Cat-tail B, Southern Cattail P,
Epithets: From a Dictionary of Botanical Epithets
ingens = huge;
Systematics: From a UDSA Plants Database
Order: Typhales. Cat-tail family
Other Range Info: From the Ethnobotany Database
Dominican Republic; Haiti; India(Santal)

Physical Characteristics

Perennial growing to 3m. It is hardy to zone 5. 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. We rate it 4/5 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 and can grow in saline soil. 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

145. Rich in starch105, it can be boiled and eaten like potatoes or macerated and then boiled to yield a sweet syrup. The root can also be dried, ground into a poder and then used as a thickener in soups etc or added to cereal flours. Rich in protein, this flour is used to make biscuits, bread, cakes etc183. The root contains a lot of fibre193. One way to remove this fibre is to peel lengths of the root that are about 20 – 25cm long, place them by a fire for a short while to dry and then twist and loosen the fibres when the starch of the root can be shaken out193. Young shoots in spring – raw or cooked193. An asparagus substitute. The inner core is eaten172. Base of mature stem – raw or cooked. It is best to remove the outer part of the stem. Young flowering stem – raw, cooked or made into a soup. Tastes like sweet corn172. Seed – cooked. The seed is rather small and fiddly to utilize, but has a pleasant nutty taste when roasted. An edible oil is obtained from the seed. Due to the small size of the seed this is probably not a very worthwhile cropK. Pollen – raw or cooked. A protein rich additive to flour used in making bread, porridge etc105, 183. It can also be eaten with the young flowers, which makes it considerably easier to utilize. 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

Astringent; Diuretic; Haemostatic; Vulnerary.

The leaves are diuretic

218. The pollen is astringent, desiccant, diuretic, haemostatic and vulnerary176, 218. It is used in the treatment of nose bleeds, haematemesis, haematuria, uterine bleeding, dysmenorrhoea, postpartum abdominal pain and gastralgia, scrofula and abscesses176. It is contraindicated for pregnant women176. The seed down is haemostatic218. The rootstock is astringent and diuretic240.

Other Uses

Biomass; Fibre; Insulation; Miscellany; Paper; Soil stabilization; Stuffing; Thatching; 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

145, 257. They are a good source of biomass, making an excellent addition to the compost heap or used as a source of fuel etc. A fibre obtained from the roots can be used for making string193. The hairs of the fruits are used for stuffing pillows etc. They have good insulating and buoyancy properties. The pollen is highly inflammable and is used in making fireworks. This plants extensive root system makes it very good for stabilizing wet banks of rivers, lakes etc.

Cultivation details

Grows in boggy pond margins or shallow water to 15cm deep1, 200. Requires a rich wet soil if it is to well200. Succeeds in sun or part shade200. Plants can be very invasive, spreading freely at the roots when in a suitable site200.


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.