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Scientific Name: Typha Latifolia

Family: Typhaceae

Other names: Bulrush, Cooper’s Reed

Cautions: Do not confuse with Yellow Flag

Herbarium Image: Coming Soon


Tall, native, perennial grass growing predominately in wetlands, ditches, and swamps. The stalk has leaves alternately arranged, clasping at the base. The leaves are long, lanceolate, upright and flat. The flowers are found on a long spike. The cattail roots have rhizomes. The flowers develop into fluffy seeds.

Traditional Medicinal Use

The Waccamaw Siouan used the juice from the stem as an analgesic, similar to aloe. The fluff could also be used as a bandage in wound healing. In Lumbee herbal medicine, the juice between the leaves is used as a skin antiseptic. Other tribes have used the roots as a poultice as a wound dressing. The basal leaves and roots have been used by some tribes to treat abdominal cramps.  The tops of the cattails are used in part of a Woman-hood ceremony for the Mescalero Apache.  

Doctor Holding Patient's Hand

Cattails have lipid loweirng effects and help control hyptertension, improve digestion and control weight gain. THey also have been shown to have analgesic and antiseptic properties. Cattails may be helpful in treating Crohns disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), early evidence seen in animal models

Cattail Flower Bread.jpg

 As survival experts will tell you, cattails are one of most significant survival food and medicine plants because all parts of the plant can be used for various purposes from starting/maintaining fire, shelter, food, as well as for medicine. The tops of the flowers are edible and the Waccamaw would eat them or use the fluff to make flour. The Lumbee peel and eat the shoots raw, and dry and ground the roots as a flour for baking bread. Cattails are high in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Theyar e a hight in vitamin K and magnesium and a good source of iron, vitamin B6 and manganese. 

Several Open Books

1. Boughman, A.L. and Oxendine, L.O (2003). Herbal Remedies of the Lumbee Indians. McFarland and Company, Inc. pg.

2. Turner, Nancy J. (2007). Food Plants of Interior First Peoples. Royal BC Museum. pg.

3. Accessed November 2, 2018

3. Fruet, A. et al. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012: 12:62

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