Previous Plant (Cariso ) Back to Search Next Plant (Catclaw Acacia )


General Information

Common Name(s): Southern Cat-tail
Family Name: Typhaceae
Genus: Typha
Species: domingensis
Indigenous Name: hoyowish

Supporting Documents

Botanical Description(s)

1) Common in brackish and fresh marshes, pools, and ponds in North America at elevations from sea level to 2000 meters.
Bibliographic Source: Lightner, James - San Diego County Native Plants
Publication: San Diego Flora, 2006
2) Physical Characteristics: Cattails are herbaceous, rhizomatous perennial plants with long, slender green stalks topped with brown, fluffy, sausage-shaped flowering heads. Southern cattail plants are 15-40 cm tall. 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. Southern cat-tail prefers sandy, loamy, and heavy (clay) soils. The plant also prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soil. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires rich/wet soil and can grow in water. Cat-tails can be very invasive, spreading freely at the roots when in a suitable site. Plant in summer 1 meter apart. Division in spring.
Bibliographic Source: Moerman, Daniel E. - Native American Ethnobotany
Publication: Timber Press, Inc., 1998

Plant Uses

Medicinal Uses

>Medicinal Purpose: > Treats Nose bleeds, Haematemesis, Haematuria, Uterine bleeding, Dysmenorrhoea, Postpartum abdominal pain, Gastralgia, Scrofula, and Abscesses.
>Part Used: > Leaves, Pollen, Seeds, Rootstalk, and Stem Juice.
>Preparation: >Dried, Squeezed.
>Administration: >Astringent, Diuretic, Haemostatic, Vulnerary
>Explanation: >Not recommended for pregnant women. Native Amercans applied the juice, squeezed from the stems, to wounds and covered them with the down, much like the use of present-day gauze.
>Related Plant Lore: >Produces contraction in living tissue, reducing the flow of secretions and discharges of blood, mucus, diarrhoea etc. Acts on the kidneys, promoting the flow of urine. Controls internal bleeding. Promotes the healing of wounds.
>Bibliographic Source: >Moerman, Daniel E. - Native American Ethnobotany
Publication: Timber Press, Inc., 1998
Utilitarian Uses

>Medicinal Purpose: > Biomass, Fibre, Insulation, Paper, Soil stabilization, Stuffing, Thatching, Weaving, Insect Repellent, Caulking Materials
>Part Used: > Roots, Stems, Leaves, Pollen, Flower Heads
>Preparation: >Stripped, Woven, Burned.
>Administration: >Fuel, Cloth, Rope, Paper, Soft toys, Mattresses, Pillows, Roofs, Basketmaking, String, Fireworks.
>Explanation: >Provides insulation against extremes of temperature, sound, or electricity. Can be grown in places such as sand dunes in order to prevent erosion by wind, water, or other agents
>Related Plant Lore: >The stems and leaves have many uses: they make a good thatch, can be used in making paper, and can be woven into mats, chairs, hats, etc. They are a good source of biomass, making an excellent addition to the compost heap or used as a source of fuel. A fibre obtained from the roots can be used for making string. The hairs of the fruits are used for stuffing pillows etc. They have good insulating and buoyancy properties. The pollen is highly inflammable and is used in making fireworks. This plant's extensive root system makes it very good for stabilizing wet banks of rivers, lakes etc. The flower heads were burned, as the smoke repelled insects.
>Bibliographic Source: >Moerman, Daniel E. - Native American Ethnobotany
Publication: Timber Press, Inc., 1998
Food Uses

>Medicinal Purpose: > Asparagus substitute, Additive to flour, Rich in nutrients.
>Part Used: > Root, Stem, Leaves, Flowers, Pollen, Seeds,
>Preparation: >Raw, Boiled, Baked, Cooked, Roasted, Dried, Grounded.
>Administration: >Oil, Syrup, Soup Thickener.
>Explanation: >Rich in starch, protein, and fiber. One acre of cat-tails yield about 6,475 pounds of flour. The flour contains about 80% carbohydrates and around 7% protein.
>Related Plant Lore: >ROOT: Eaten raw or cooked. Rich in starch. Can be boiled and eaten like potatoes or macerated and then boiled to yield a sweet syrup. The root can also be dried, ground into a powder to use as a thickener in soups or added to cereal flours. Rich in protein, this flour is used to make biscuits, bread, cookies, cakes etc. The root contains a lot of fiber. To remove fiber one must peel lengths of the root (about 20 - 25cm long) and place them shortly by a fire to dry. Then twist and loosen the fibers when the starch of the root can be shaken out. YOUNG SHOOTS: Eaten in Spring raw or cooked. The inner core is eaten as an asparagus substitute. BASE OF MATURE STEM: Remove outer part of stem. Eaten raw or cooked. YOUNG FLOWERING STEM: Eaten raw, cooked, or made into a soup. Tastes like sweet corn. SEED: Eaten cooked. The seed is small and hard to utilize, but has a pleasant nutty taste when roasted. An edible oil is obtained from the seed. POLLEN: Eaten raw or cooked. A protein rich additive to flour used in making bread & porridge.
>Bibliographic Source: >Moerman, Daniel E. - Native American Ethnobotany
Publication: Timber Press, Inc., 1998
Cultural Uses

>Medicinal Purpose: > Nutritional Value, Basket Weaving, Ceremonial Bundles, and Female Puberty Ceremonies
>Part Used: > All parts edible when gathered at the appropriate stage of growth, Stems, Leaves, Pollen
>Preparation: >Stripped, Woven, Lit, Burned.
>Administration: >Baskets, Mats, Rope, Torches
>Explanation: >The Native American Indians used the stalks for matting, bedding material, and ceremonial bundles.
>Related Plant Lore: >Some tribes used the leaves and sheath bases as caulking materials. Some used the pollen in female puberty ceremonies. After dipping the spike in coal oil, the stalk makes a fine torch. The fluff can also be used as tinder, insulation, or for lining baby cradle boards. The down is used for baby beds.
>Bibliographic Source: >Moerman, Daniel E. - Native American Ethnobotany
Publication: Timber Press, Inc., 1998