The Typhaceae or Cattail Family is a family of flowering plants although their flowers minute and inconspicuous.
World-wide The Plant List recognizes 2 genera, Typha and Sparganium and 65 species names. In the genus Typha there are 38 species names and 63 plant names of infraspecific rank for the genus. In North America the U.S. Department of Agriculture lists 3 species of Typha with at least 2 identified hybrids resulting in 5 accepted taxa overall.
Plants in the Cattail Family prefer wet, marshy habitats found in temperate and neo-tropical regions. Cattails regularly hybridize with each other and the resulting plants are identified by each parents name. In California for example colonies of all 3 species have been recorded.
Common characteristics: Plants: herbs, perennial, prefer fresh or brackish wetlands, rhizomatous, glabrous, emergent from shallow water or wet soil. Leaves: alternate, basal and cauline, cauline leaves long slender ascending. Inflorescence: raceme, terminal, erect, cylindric spikes, equaled or exceeded by cauline leaves; Flowers: unisexual, monecious plants, staminate and pistillate flowers separated on the terminal spike spatially; male flowers at base of inflorescence, female flowers near apex, densely packed in unisexual spikes, wind-pollinated. Fruits: small follicles.
Economic Importance: Typha species are important to maintaining well oxygenated healthy ecosystems in lakes, marshes and wet-meadows. A well balanced wet-land of cattails and sedges provide habitat for large numbers of plants and animals including mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and insects. However an unbalanced wet-land ecosystem may become congested and overgrown with aggressive cattails. When this happens these wet-lands often suffer irreparable damage resulting in significant loses to surface water area, native co-dominant plant species such as sedges, animals and insects.
Typha domingensis, Southern Cattail