A marsh or aquatic plant, usually growing in thick colonies from creeping perennial rootstocks provided with fibrous roots. Stems stout, round in cross-section, glabrous, 4 to 8 feet high. Leaves numerous, linear, flat, swordlike, sheathing the stem at the base and rather stiffly ascending. Flowers monoecious, that is, staminate and pistillate flowers separate but on the same plant; densely crowded into terminal spikes; the staminate spikes uppermost and scarcely or but slightly separated from the dark brown or nearly black pistillate spike, each 3 to 12 inches long and often an inch or more thick. Perianth of the individual flowers composed merely of bristles which subtend two to seven stamens (in the staminate spike), or a small, short-stalked ovary (in the pistillate spikes). Mingled among the stamens and pistils are bristly hairs, and among the pistillate flowers many sterile flowers with clavate tips. The fruit consists of many small nutlets, surmounted by the persistent bristles which aid in wind dissemination of the seeds when the head of fruit breaks up.
Common everywhere in marshes and swamps, and also in Europe and Asia. Flowering in June and July; fruit ripe in August and September, frequently persistent until the following spring.
The Narrow-leaved Cat-tail (Typha angustifolia Linnaeus), is more abundant in marshes along the coast, but is sometimes found inland. The leaves are narrower than those of the preceding species, being one-sixth to one-half of an inch wide; spikes lighter brown in color, not so thick, and the staminate and pistillate spikes separated from one another.
Figure I Broad-leaved Cat-tail (Typhalatifolia Linnaeus)