Missouri’s cattails are all 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 appear yellow and powdery. Blooms May–July. There are three species in our state:
Common (broad-leaved) cattail (T. latifolia) has flat leaves to 1 inch wide and usually reaches 8 feet in height. The 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 in height. 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. The male and female flower sections are clearly separated on the spike. The female section is medium brown and ¾-1¼ inches in diameter.