The members of this family are very abundant aquatic herbs with perennial roots. Sometimes we find them in groups of only two or three plants, and again acres of marsh may be covered with waving green leaves. We have two species with differences as noted below. Both have staminate yellow flowers in a spike above the pistillate brown ones; the former soon fall off or blow away, while the latter develop into the large, familiar, brown cattail that is often used for decorative purposes. These plants are self fertilized by the pollen from the staminate flowers falling upon the stigmas of the pistillate ones below.
Tracts of cat-tail marshes usually furnish homes for various species of birds. The Marsh Wren attaches its handsome globular nest to the rushes a few feet above water; Least Bitterns fasten their rude platforms also in the leaves, while rails, coots and grebes find appropriate places among the roots on the ground, at the waters edge or even floating upon the surface of the water. The two species of Cat-tails that we have, differ as follows:
A. Common Cat-tail Typha latifolia. B. Narrow-leaved Cat-tail. Typha angustifolia.
Common Cat-Tail (Typha Latifolia)has yellowish staminate flowers encircling the upper end of the flower stalk, and immediately below is a long cylindrical mass of brownish pistillate ones. The pollen grains are arranged in fours. Leaves three to eight feet long, sheathing at the base. Found in marshes throughout the United States and southern Canada, flowering in June and July.
Narrow-Leaved Cat-Tail (Typha Angustifolia)has narrower leaves, averaging less than ¾ in. broad. The two kinds of flowers are separated by a bare space of stalk and the pollen grains are simple. This species is locally found from Me. to Mich, southwards, chiefly near the coast.