Herb: Southern Cattail

Latin name: Typha domingensis

Synonyms: Typha angustata

Family: Typhaceae (Cat-tail Family)

Medicinal use of Southern Cattail:

The leaves are diuretic. The pollen is astringent, desiccant, diuretic, haemostatic and vulnerary. It is used in the treatment of nose bleeds, haematemesis, haematuria, uterine bleeding, dysmenorrhoea, postpartum abdominal pain and gastralgia, scrofula and abscesses. It is contraindicated for pregnant women. The seed down is haemostatic. The rootstock is astringent and diuretic.

Description of the plant:


3 m
(9 3/4 foot)

Habitat of the herb:

Brackish to fresh marshes and pools in N. America.

Edible parts of Southern Cattail:

Roots - raw or cooked. Rich in starch, it 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 poder and then used as a thickener in soups etc or added to cereal flours. Rich in protein, this flour is used to make biscuits, bread, cakes etc. The root contains a lot of fibre. One way to remove this fibre is to peel lengths of the root that are about 20 - 25cm long, place them by a fire for a short while to dry and then twist and loosen the fibres when the starch of the root can be shaken out. Young shoots in spring - raw or cooked. An asparagus substitute. The inner core is eaten. Base of mature stem - raw or cooked. It is best to remove the outer part of the stem. Young flowering stem - raw, cooked or made into a soup. Tastes like sweet corn. Seed - cooked. The seed is rather small and fiddly to utilize, but has a pleasant nutty taste when roasted. An edible oil is obtained from the seed. Due to the small size of the seed this is probably not a very worthwhile crop. Pollen - raw or cooked. A protein rich additive to flour used in making bread, porridge etc. It can also be eaten with the young flowers, which makes it considerably easier to utilize. The pollen can be harvested by placing the flowering stem over a wide but shallow container and then gently tapping the stem and brushing the pollen off with a fine brush. This will help to pollinate the plant and thereby ensure that both pollen and seeds can be harvested.

Other uses of the herb:

The stems and leaves have many uses, they make a good thatch, can be used in making paper, 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 etc. 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 plants extensive root system makes it very good for stabilizing wet banks of rivers, lakes etc.

Propagation of Southern Cattail:

Seed - surface sow in a pot and stand it in 3cm of water. Pot up the young seedlings as soon as possible and, as the plants develop, increase the depth of water. Plant out in summer. Division in spring. Very easy, harvest the young shoots when they are about 10 - 30cm tall, making sure there is at least some root attached, and plant them out into their permanent positions.

Cultivation of the herb:

Brackish to fresh marshes and pools in N. America.

Known hazards of Typha domingensis:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.