Location: Marshes, ditches, shorelines; shallow areas of lakes, ponds, and slow streams; quiet water up to 4 feet deep.
Description: Grows above water surface; is thickly rooted; has long, slender stalks growing 3 to 10 feet high; flower consists of a cigar-shaped "cattail", which is green during early summer and turns brown and fuzzy in the fall and following spring.
Hints to identify: Look for the fuzzy brown "cattail" near the top of the stalk. Leaves are long, flat, and about 1-inch wide.
Importance of plant: Helps stabilize marshy borders of lakes and ponds; helps protect shorelines from wave erosion; northern pike may spawn along shore behind the cattail fringe; provides cover and nesting sites for waterfowl and marsh birds such as the red-winged blackbird; stalks and roots are eaten by muskrats and beavers; the starchy roots, young flowering spikes, and pollen can be eaten by humans, too.
Management strategy: See DNR regulations . To preserve as much cattail habitat as possible, the DNR permits the removal of these plants only in a small area to provide boat access to deeper lake water. Cutting cattails below the water surface after first frost provides good control, as will application of a DNR-approved herbicide to the leaves. Once an area is cleared, control may not be needed again for several years.