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Aquatic and Wetland Vascular Plants of the Northern Great Plains

65. Typhaceae, the Cattail Family

1. Typha L. -- Cattail

Tall, stout, reedlike marsh plants, perennial, extensively colonial from fleshy rhizomes. Stems simple, terete, erect, sheathed for most of the length by overlapping leaf sheaths. Leaves alternate in 2 ranks, erect, broad, linear, rather spongy, sheathing at the base, the sheaths open, scarious-margined. Flowers unisexual, minute, the male flowers above the female in a solitary, terminal, dense, cylindrical spike, the male and female portions of the spike contiguous or separated; perianth absent; staminate flowers usually of 3-5 stamens, the anthers linear, filaments often connate, subtended by numerous slender hairs; pistillate flowers each comprised of a simple pistil, intermixed with some sterile flowers, the ovary on a short stipe called the gynophore, this with numerous long, slender hairs (the gynophore hairs) near the base, the hairs surpassing the ovary; bracteoles also sometimes present, these intermixed with and about as long as the gynophore hairs, filiform with a broadened, brown tip. Fruit a fusiform achene, golden or tawny, 1-1.5 mm long, the style persistent, long and slender with an expanded stigma; mature spike thick, brown and fuzzy in appearance due to the crowded stigmas and gynophore hairs, the upper staminate portion of the spike eventually naked.

Reliable separation of the two common species of Typha and their hybrid, T. X glauca Godr., is best achieved with floral characters. The reduced size and crowded condition of the flowers in the spike requires that a cluster of female flowers be removed from the spike and observed under magnifications of 20-30X. Higher magnifications may be needed for pollen grains. If the material is dried, the flowers or pollen should be wetted with a wetting solution, e.g., soap-water solution, to restore structures to natural size and shape.

Fassett, N. C. and B. M. Calhoun.  1952.  Introgression between Typha 
     latifolia and T. angustifolia.  Evolution 6:367-379.

Hotchkiss, N. and H. L. Dozier.  1949.  Taxonomy and distribution of North 
     American cattails.  Amer. Midl. Naturalist 41:237-254. 

Lee, D. W. 1975.  Population variation and introgression in North American 
     Typha. Taxon 24:633-641.

Smith, S. G.  1967.  Experimental and natural hybrids in North American 
     Typha (Typhaceae).  Amer. Midl. Naturalist 78:257-287.

Lead Characteristic Go To
1 Pistillate bracteoles absent; stigmas dark brown, lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate; staminate and pistillate portions of the spike usually contiguous; pollen released predominantly in tetrads. T. latifolia
1 Pistillate bracteoles present (these reduced and appearing like gynophore hairs with slightly broadened brown tips in T. X glauca); stigmas pale brown, linear to linear-lanceolate; staminate and pistillate portions of the spike usually separated; pollen released in monads or in a mixture of monads, diads, triads and tetrads. Lead 2
2 Pistillate bracteoles broader than the linear stigmas; pollen in monads. T. angustifolia
2 Pistillate bracteoles narrower than the linear-lanceolate
stigmas; pollen usually in a mixture of monads, diads, triads
and tetrads.
T. X glauca

65. Typhaceae, the Cattail Family
1. Typha L. -- Cattail
1. Typha angustifolia L. -- Narrowleaf cattail
2. Typha latifolia L. -- Common cattail
3. Typha X glauca Godr. -- Hybrid cattail

Return to Family -- Typha - The Cattail Family
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