This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
A common and familiar plant, associated with pond and aquatic life generally, our present knowledge of its range and history is derived from the modern distribution of the Reed-mace, which is the N. Temperate Zone in Europe (except Greece), N. Africa, N. and W. Asia, N. America. In South Britain it does not grow in N. Devon, Cardigan, Mid Lancs, S.E. Yorks, Isle of Man. In Scotland it is found only in Wigtown in West Lowlands, not at all in the E. Lowlands, and not in S. Perth or Kincardine. In the W. Highlands it is found only in Clyde Islands, Cantire, and in N. Highlands in E. Ross, Caithness, and it is extinct again in the Orkneys, in the North Isles. It is found in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
The common Reed-mace is a local but generally distributed aquatic plant, growing deeply rooted in the mud in ponds, pools, and lakes, generally in a more or less sheltered position. It is also found less commonly in rivers and by the sides of streams, as well as in fen and marsh land in the reed swamp, open or closed.
While grass-like, the Reed-mace has a habit of its own, with tall, erect, unbranched stems, and leaves 1 in. broad and 3 ft. long, bluish. They are flat, linear, in two rows, blunt, and longer or taller than the flowerheads.
The plants are monoecious, with male and female flowers on the same spike, the latter below, dark-brown or black, the former yellow. The anther-stalks are shorter than the anthers at first, then longer after the pollen is shed. The stigmas are long, lance-shaped, oblique.
Reed-mace is 6-10 ft. high. The flowers are in bloom in July. The plant is a herbaceous perennial and propagated by seeds, forming a great ornament in ponds and even growing on dry soil.
The flowers are wind-pollinated, monoecious. The yellower flowers above are male, with 2-5 stamens, the connective extending beyond the anthers, which are monadelphous. The flowers (both sexes) are surrounded by persistent membranous scales or hairs. The anthers open laterally, producing showers of pollen. The stigma is blunt, the style being simple and stigmatic ventrally. The female flowers are brown, contain 1 carpel and a pendulous ovule, with the micropyle toward the base. The stigma ripens first.
The small fruits, achenes, shortly stalked on a thread-like stalk, are fringed with hairs from the persistent perianth, and thus dispersed by the wind.
Photo. Flatters & Harnett - Reed-mace (Typha Latifolia, L.)
The Reed-mace is a peat-loving plant, growing in a peat soil, and usually aquatic or submerged, rooting along the margins of ponds.
The Reed-mace fungus, Epichloe typhina, is frequently to be found on it. Several beetles, Stilbus oblongus, Telematophilus sparganii, T. caricis, T. typhae, T. schonneri, T. brevicollis, Donacia vulgaris.
D. cinerea, Thysanoptera, Thrips cereatum, Lepidoptera, Reed Wainscot (Nonagria cannae), Bulrush (N. typhae), N. sparganii, Fenn's Nonagria (N. brevilinea), Gold Spot (P/usia festucae), Chilo paludellus, Laverna phragmitella, a Heteropterous insect, Chilacis typhae, are found on it.
Typha, Theophrastus, is from the Greek tuphe, and the second Latin name refers to the wide leaves. Bulrush was formerly pole-rush or pool-rush.
Reed-mace is called Baccobolts, March or Marish Beetle, Blackamoor, Blackcap, Blackheads, Black-puddings, Bullrush, Bull-segg, Cat-o'-nine-tails, Cat's-spear, Cat's-tail, Cat's-tails, Club-rush, Dod, Dunce Down, Dunche Down, Flag, Flax-tail, Holy Pokers, Lance-for-a-lad, Levers, Livers, Lyvers, Reed Mace, March Pestill, Marsh Pestill, Mat-reed or Mat-weed, Pokers, Seggs, Serge, Son's Brow, Sootipillies, Water Torch, Whiteheads. Turner says: "It maye be also called rede mace because boyes use it in their handes in the stede of a mace". It is called "Whiteheads when the downy matter has ripened and lost the colour which leads to the designation Blackheads". The name Baccobolts is given because the female spikes are supposed to be like a roll of tobacco. It is called March or Marish Beetle in reference to the form of its inflorescence, and because it grows in marshes. The name Black-puddings is given from the shape and colour of the flowerheads. Dod is the Reed-mace in the North of England. Dunche Down is applied to it "because the downe of this herbe will cause one to be deafe, if it happens to fall into the ears, as Matthiolus writeth", according to Lyte. The name Flax-tail refers to the fruiting heads, which are downy like finely combed flax.
Reed-mace was used traditionally by witches as a besom upon which they were supposed to fly. It has been placed in the hand of Christ as the rod given to Him to carry, by Rubens and other painters. If a light is applied to the pollen it takes fire very quickly, and has been used for fireworks. The roots have been eaten in salads, and the leaves are relished by cattle. Pillows are stuffed with the downy flowers. The leaves are used for making casks watertight. Mats are made from the leaves, baskets, chair-bottoms, thatch. The rhizomes are farinaceous, and the pollen has been made into cakes in India and New Zealand.
Essential Specific Characters:309. Typha latifolia, L. - Stem tall, leaves very tall, longer than the scape, linear, flowers in a long spike, the yellow male flowers above the silky, brown females.