Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cattails in Summer

Common Cattails (Typha latifolia) have a regular presence in our freshwater marshes. But how much do we notice them? As I passed a stand of cattails yesterday, I noticed that several older stalks, probably from last year, still stood among this year's cattails. (You can see them in the background on this photo.) I cannot remember thinking about that before, but I must have seen older, dried cattails in previous summers.

Cattail stalks include two spikes of flowers. A thick, dark brown spike contains the female flowers. These are pollinated by male flowers that grow in a thin, light brown spike just above the female flowers. Once the seeds mature, the thick spikes become fluffy, and the seeds are dispersed by wind. I imagine that these older stalks with fluffy heads give birds and mammals some soft material for their nests during the breeding season.