Our cattails are tall wetland plants with narrow, upright leaves emerging from a thick base, and a central stalk bearing a brown, sausage-shaped flower spike. The brown section consists of female flowers; above it on the stalk, the male flowers are yellow and powdery. Blooms May–July. Missouri has 3 species:
Common (broad-leaved) cattail (T. latifolia) has flat leaves to 1 inch wide and usually reaches 8 feet high. Male and female flower sections are close together.
Narrow-leaved cattail (T. angustifolia) has rounded leaves to ½ inch wide and usually reaches 6 feet high. Male and female flower sections are clearly separated on the spike. Female section is dark brown and ½-¾ inch in diameter.
Southern cattail (T. domingensis) is less common than the other two, found only in the prairies of western Missouri. Male and female sections are clearly separated on the spike. Female section is medium brown and ¾-1¼ inches in diameter.