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Narrow-leaved cattail

Narrow-leaved cattail (Typha angustifolia)

Perennial, erect wetland plant that is 5-10’ tall, often with a submersed base.


Regulated areas of narrow-leaved cattail
Narrow-leaved cattail is Restricted (Orange counties)

Other names for this plant include:

  • Common names: narrow-leaf cattail, lesser bulrush
  • Scientific names: T. angustifolia var calumetensis; T. angustifolia var elongata

Ecological threat:

  • Invade freshwater marshes, wet meadows, fens, roadsides, ditches, shallow ponds, stream, and lake shores.
  • Play an important role as a source of food and shelter for some marsh-dwelling animals, but large mono-specific stands of invasive cattails exclude some less common species.

Classification in Wisconsin: Restricted

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for narrow-leaved cattail was based upon this literature review developed by the department.


Leaves: Erect, linear, and flat the leaf blades are 0.15-0.5” wide, and up to 3’ long. About 15 leaves emerge per shoot. Dark green in color and rounded on the back of the blade. The top of the leaf sheath has thin, ear-shaped lobes at the junction with the blade that usually disintegrates in the summer.

Flowers: Numerous tiny flowers densely packed into a cylindrical spike at end of stem, divided into upper section of yellow, male flowers and lower brown, sausage-shaped section of female flowers. Gap between male and female sections is about 0.5-4” in narrow-leaved cattail. They flower in late spring.

Fruits & seeds: Seeds are tiny (about 1 mm), dispersed by wind with the aid of numerous hairs. Each narrow-leaved cattail spike produces thousands of seeds that remain viable for up to 100 years.

Roots: Plants reproduce vegetatively by means of starchy underground rhizomes to form large colonies.

Similar species: Common (broad-leaved) cattail (Typha latifolia; native) generally does not have a gap between male and female sections of the inflorescence and differs in several often tiny features of the leaves, flowers, and fruits. Hybrid cattail (Typha x glauca) is a hybrid of common and narrow-leaved cattails, and its structure is intermediate between that of its parental species. The best way to identify the hybrids is to first learn the characteristics of T. angustifolia and T. latifolia, then look for plants that are intermediate.


Known county distribution of narrow-leaved cattail
Counties in WI where narrow-leaved cattail has been reported (as of July 2011). Both vouchered and unvouchered reports included.

Do you have narrow-leaved cattail in your county but it isn't shaded on the map? Send us a report.


Mechanical: Cut all stems, both green and dead in mid to late summer or early fall. Where possible maintain a water level of a minimum of 3” above the cut stems for the entire growing season.

Chemical: Foliar spray with aquatic approved imazypr.


View narrow-leaved cattail pictures in our photo gallery!


Sources for content:

  • Czarapata, Elizabeth; Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest: an illustrated guide to their identification and control. University of Wisconsin Press. 2005. Pg. 80-83
  • Flora of North America. Typha angustifolia [exit DNR]. Vol. 22 Page 283, 284.

Links for More Information

Last revised: Friday May 31 2019