Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Tale about Cattails

While traveling on Mississippi Hwy 22 a few days ago, I did a double take as I passed these Cattails that were growing in a shallow ditch beside the road.

I turned around and went back to get a closer look.

If you are a regular visitor here, you know I can't just take pictures of things without finding out a little about them. Having been born and raised in Northeast Louisiana, which is home to thousands of lakes, ponds, marshes, bayous, and swamps, I was quite familiar with cattails when I was growing up, but never really thought anything about them, one way or another. I guess I'm more curious about things at this stage of my life, because I wanted to know more about how those cattails came to be growing in a little ditch beside MS Hwy 22.

While researching "cattails," I came across an interesting website (Study of Northern Virginia Ecology) designed for use by elementary-age students in Northern Virginia to learn more about their local ecology, and here is what I discovered about cattails:

Cattails can be found growing around ponds, marshes, rivers, lakes, and even ditches, as mine were.

"They are tall, stiff plants, sometimes growing to a height of almost 10 feet. The leaves look like giant blades of grass, about one-inch wide, and the 'flower' has two parts — a brown cylinder (the female part), and a yellow spike (the male part).

Common Cattails have roots that creep, called rhizomes, which grow new shoots quickly. This creates the thick stands which are great cover for the many animals that live among them.

Red-winged Blackbirds are probably the animal most associated with cattails. The blackbirds are often seen perching on them, and they also build their nests on them. Besides Red-winged Blackbirds, waterfowl, such as Mallards and Canada Geese, nest among cattails. Frogs and salamanders will lay their eggs in the water on and between them. Fish will hide or nest among them."

I'm disappointed that I didn't see any creatures or nests among the cattails I saw, but I was keeping a careful look out for a different species of animals that could have been lurking in the grass at my feet — snakes!

I also found out that "Common Cattails flower from May to July. In early Fall, the brown flower head pops open, letting its fluffy seeds emerge. These seeds are carried by wind or water to new places, and many species of birds use the fluff to line their nests."

I'll be sure to slow down when I pass the cattails the next time I'm traveling on Hwy 22, and hopefully, will be able to capture some pictures of the flowers after they have popped open.


Dorothy said...

Great pictures of the Cattails! I hardly ever see these anymore. I like them in giant Fall arrangements.

MeenyMoe said...

We have cattails here in TN and in Indiana, where I grew up. Someone told me (and I can't remember if it was in Indiana or TN) that if you get caught picking them, it's against the law - for some strange reason. Perhaps they are a "protected" endangered plant? Have you ever heard of this? - Karen

Richard Cottrell said...

Can be quite messy when there heads pop. I have sprayed them with hairspray and that holds them for a while. Thanks, Richard from My Old Historic House.

Jenni said...

What a fun visit with you I enjoyed today! I like that I learn so much from you... because you take the time to learn about things and pass on that knowledge with us!

I had heard, but don't know if it's true or not, that Indian (Native American) women made some kind of bread from some part of the cattail that they ground up?? Do you know anything about that? Or are they poisonous??

I hope your weekend is blessed with joy and peace...