The Good & Bad About Cattails Plus Tools to Get Rid of and Manage Them
Of all the species of wetland flora existing today, cattails are one of the most widespread and vigorously populating. Most common in shallow waters, cattails multiply by their pollinated flowers and, once established, spread by way of the root system. The flower of a cattail plant resembles a sort of stake, or even a hot dog if that’s easier to imagine. When referring to the most common species, the flower is brown in color and has a somewhat fealty, soft and firm feel. When the season calls for it, the flower stalks turn to wispy white seed heads and are carried on the wind across land and water to plant themselves for the next season. Once a cattail has established itself along the shore of a pond, marsh, lake, or river, the roots tend to expand greatly, growing underground and sometimes even floating close to the surface in deeper waters. In scientific terms Typha Latifolia, these plants are water lovers and require wet roots and plenty of sunshine during their growing season.
Want to learn how to get rid of cattails in your lake or pond? Learn how at the bottom of the page!
Once a bed is established, cattails provide a hearty and useful part of the landscape for waterfowl such as Mallards, Geese and Red-Winged Blackbirds. They make a great perch and a perfect place to build a nest. Fish, frogs and salamanders use their shade and protection to nest and lay eggs, while larger creatures use them as cover, and even food.
Surprisingly, humans can also enjoy cattails as an occasional part of the diet! As with any food grown in the wild, make sure the area in which your cattails are growing is a clean source of flowing, non stagnant water and healthy soil. The part of the cattail most commonly consumed by humans is referred to as the ‘heart’, and much like an artichoke or celery heart, it is the white inner core found after peeling away the coarse leaves and stem. Other edible parts of the plant include the tips of young plants, the bottom of the stalk, and even the smaller, more tender offshoots of the main roots (rootlets). Even their pollen can be made into flour! Eattheweeds.com claims that “No green plant produces more edible starch per acre than the Cat O’ Nine Tails”.
Cattails, in nature and in our skillets, prove to be worth their weight and claim as a very useful and necessary part of the North American landscape. All of that said, there are times when cattails can be a downright menace. They are so fast growing that they can quickly overtake a waterway which can hinder many recreational activities and reduce open water areas. Firstly, you should check with local government to ensure that the waterway you ware wanting to clear isn’t protected wetland area. Because wetlands are protected in a lot of areas and cattails are a large provider within these areas. It isn’t legal to cut or remove them from all areas. You can contact your local DNR to learn about any regulation in your area.
Some people try to remove them by just hand pulling new growth areas or using cattail cutting tools to completely remove them just beneath the waterline. If you time it correctly, you can see a huge reduction in cattails numbers, but timing is essential. If you are too close to spring, your removal can possibly cause them to grow more rapidly and if you cut them into winter they will already have their food supply stored to survive the winter. You need to cut them at the just right time after all the growth, but before winter.
What are the top recommended cattail cutters?
Weeder’s Digest sells several tools that can help you maintain control of the cattails in your waterway. The first one that I recommend is the Aquatic Vegetation Groomer. This is an interesting tool that works quite like a yard trimmer, the difference though is that the Aquatic Vegetation Groomer has been designed for use under water. You can even push it into the muck and grime that has formed at the bottom of your waterway. You’ll easily be able to control the cattails growing close to the shoreline with this tool. This will also allow you to just stay ahead of cattails, so you could maintain an area where you allow them to grow, while keeping them away from areas where you don’t. This is good for the environment and good for you, a great compromise.
We also have the WeedShear. This is a fantastic tool that allows you to manually trim many types of weeds including cattails. You toss this tool out and then pull it back with a jerking motion to allow the razor sharp blade to cut your weeds. This will cut all the weeds along with the cattails. The razor sharp blade and wide cut of this cutter makes it an ideal tool for cleaning up your beach or fishing area. With this tool, you toss it out and pull back using a rope that is included with it’s purchase.
Getting down into the muck and plucking out the problem plants is easily done with the Serrated Lake Weed Cutter. This cutter has a serrated blade which you use handheld to remove weeds. You can push this down into the muck and remove weeds including cattails right from the root systems.
The LakeGroomer is a tool that will roll across the bottom of your water, this continuous movement will maintain a bottom free from any weed growth within it area of use.