Typha latifolia

Common name: Reedmace Family: Typhaceae
Author: L. Botanical references: 17, 200
Known Hazards: None known
Range: Throughout the world from the Arctic to latitude 30° S, incl Britain but absent from Africa, S. Asia
Habitat: Shallow water up to 15cm deep in ponds, lakes, ditches, slow-flowing streams etc, succeeding in acid or alkaline conditions9, 17.
Edibility Rating (1-5): 5 Medicinal Rating (1-5): 3
Other Common Names: From various places around the Web, may not be correct. See below.
Broad-leaf Cat-tail B, Broadleaf Cattail P, Bulrush L, Cattail H,E, Common Cat-tail L, Common Cattail FEIS, Gama E, Great Reedmace L, Grote Lisdodde D,
Epithets: From a Dictionary of Botanical Epithets
latifolia = broad leaved;
Systematics: From a UDSA Plants Database
Order: Typhales. Cat-tail family
Other Range Info: From the Ethnobotany Database
Canada(Salish); China; Egypt; Paraguay; Us; Us(Blackfoot)
Noxious, Invasive and Injurious Weeds From UDSA PLANTS database, Weeds Australia , DEFRA Injurious Weeds
Listed as noxious/invasive for: Western Australia, Tasmaina.

Physical Characteristics

Perennial growing to 2.5m by 3m . It is hardy to zone 3. It is in flower from June to August. 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

2, 12. They can be boiled and eaten like potatoes or macerated and then boiled to yield a sweet syrup. The roots can also be dried and ground into a powder, this powder is rich in protein and can be mixed with wheat flour and then used for making bread, biscuits, muffins etc55, 62, 95, 183. One hectare of this plant can produce 8 tonnes of flour from the rootstock85. The plant is best harvested from late autumn to early spring since it is richest in starch at this time9. The root contains about 80% carbohydrate (30 – 46% starch) and 6 – 8% protein85. Young shoots in spring – raw or cooked12, 55, 62, 94, 102, 183. An asparagus substitute. They taste like cucumber212. The shoots can still be used when they are up to 50cm long85. Base of mature stem – raw or cooked2, 9, 55. It is best to remove the outer part of the stem62, 183. It is called ‘Cossack asparagus’183. Immature flowering spike – raw, cooked or made into a soup62, 85, 94. It tastes like sweet corn183. Seed – raw or cooked2, 257. The seed is rather small and fiddly to utilize, but has a pleasant nutty taste when roasted12. The seed can be ground into a flour and used in making cakes etc257. An edible oil is obtained from the seed55, 85. Due to the small size of the seed this is probably not a very worthwhile cropK. Pollen – raw or cooked. The pollen can be used as a protein rich additive to flour when making bread, porridge etc12, 55, 62, 94, 102. It can also be eaten with the young flowers85, 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

Anticoagulant; Astringent; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Galactogogue; Haemostatic; Refrigerant; Sedative; Tonic; Vulnerary.

The leaves are diuretic

218. The leaves have been mixed with oil and used as a poultice on sores257. The pollen is astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, haemostatic, refrigerant, sedative, suppurative and vulnerary218. 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, haemorrhage, painful menstruation, abnormal uterine bleeding, post-partum pains, abscesses and cancer of the lymphatic system222, 238. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women238. Externally, it is used in the treatment of tapeworms, diarrhoea and injuries238. A decoction of the stems has been used in the treatment of whooping cough257. The roots are diuretic, galactogogue, refrigerant and tonic218. The roots are pounded into a jelly-like consistency and applied as a poultice to wounds, cuts, boils, sores, carbuncles, inflammations, burns and scalds222, 257. The flowers are used in the treatment of a wide range of ailments including abdominal pain, amenorrhoea, cystitis, dysuria, metrorrhagia and vaginitis218. The young flower heads are eaten as a treatment for diarrhoea222. The seed down has been used as a dressing on burns and scalds257.

Other Uses

Baby care; Biomass; Fibre; Insulation; Lighting; Miscellany; Paper; Soil stabilization; Stuffing; Thatching; Tinder; Weaving.

The stems and leaves have many uses. Gathered in the autumn they make a good thatch, can be used in making paper, can be woven into mats, chairs, hats etc

94, 99, 257. They are a good source of biomass, making an excellent addition to the compost heap or used as a source of fuel etc. The pulp of the plant can be converted into rayon222. The stems can be used to make rush lights. The outer stem is removed except for a small strip about 10mm wide which acts as a spine to keep the stem erect. The stem is then soaked in oil and can be lit and used like a candle55. The female flowers make an excellent tinder and can be lit from the spark of a flint212. A fibre is obtained from the blossom stem and flowers55, 57, 99. A fibre obtained from the leaves can be used for making paper189 The leaves are harvested in summer, autumn or winter and are soaked in water for 24 hours prior to cooking. The fibres are cooked for 2 hours with soda ash and then beaten in a ball mill for 1½ hours. They make a green or brown paper189. The hairs of the fruits are used for stuffing pillows etc257. They have good insulating and buoyancy properties and have also been used as a wound dressing and a lining for babies nappies99. The flowering stems can be dried and used for insulation, they also have good buoyancy properties55, 171. The pollen is highly inflammable, it is used in making fireworks etc115.

Cultivation details

A very easily grown plant, succeeding in the boggy margins of ponds or in shallow water up to 15cm deep17. It succeeds in acid and calcareous soils and requires a less organic-rich soil than T. angustifolia in order to do well17. It succeeds in sun or part shade200. A very invasive plant spreading freely at the roots when in a suitable site, it is not suitable for growing in small areas24. 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. Provides excellent cover for wild 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.