Classification Hierarchy
Kingdom Plantae
Subkingdom Tracheophyta
Superdivision Spermatophyta
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Liliopsida
Subclass Commelinidae
Order Typhales
Family Typhaceae
Genus Typha
Species Typha angustifolia
Narrowleaf cattail

Date: June 2, 2012. Location: Sandhill lake (map)

USDA Plant Profile Flora of N. America

Scientific Name: Typha angustifolia ([L] angusti - narrow, folia - leaf)

Common Name: Narrowleaf cattail

Origin: Native and Introduced

Notes: Two species of cattail (Typha angustifolia and T. latifolia) are common in Iowa, as is T. X glauca, which is a hybrid between the two species and has features roughly intermediate between them. T. angustifolia and the hybrid are sometimes regarded as invasive. [See comparison: photo, table]

Additional references: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.

Field Marks for Identification:

Flowers: June; inflorescence, a single flowering stem is terminated by two floral spikes which are separated by several centimeters of naked stem - the staminate spike is most distal. The pistillate spike is composed of many carpels with associated hairs which assist in windborne fruit distribution. The linear stigmatic structures and bracteole blades that cover the surface of the spike are important identification features.

Leaves: light green, long, linear, and plano-convex in cross section. leaf width less than 10 mm.

Glossaries of botanical terms: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.

Narrowleaf cattail-1 Narrowleaf cattail-2 Narrowleaf cattail-3 Narrowleaf cattail-4 Narrowleaf cattail-5 Narrowleaf cattail-6 Narrowleaf cattail-7 Narrowleaf cattail-8 Narrowleaf cattail-9 Narrowleaf cattail-10 Narrowleaf cattail-11 Narrowleaf cattail-12 Narrowleaf cattail-13 Narrowleaf cattail-14 Narrowleaf cattail-15 Narrowleaf cattail-16 Narrowleaf cattail-17 Narrowleaf cattail-18 Narrowleaf cattail-19 Narrowleaf cattail-20

Comments: With just two species and a hybrid in our area, it would seem a simple matter it distinguish between them. However, developmental changes and species plasticity allows overlapping traits among the three. Nevertheless, a cursory distinction can be made based simply on the largest leaf width and the space between the two spikes; T. angustifolia having a leaf width less than 10 mm and a distance between the two spikes of more than 2 cm, and T. latifolia with a leaf width greater than 10 mm and little (less than 2 cm) or no space between the two spikes. A more reliable identification can be made from microscopic features best described on the FNA website. The photos above are offered to help you negotiate the text on that site.