If you live anywhere in the United States near marshlands or ponds, the cattail is a summertime staple. Known by science as the Broadleaf Cattail (Typha latifolia), these species of edible plant have offered generations of children fun and exciting ways to kick up their allergies. Colloquially referred to as “corn dog grass,” cattails can be popped open like cans of biscuits, releasing fluffy seed heads into the world like so much sneezing fairy dust. Case in point: the below video, which we found at BoingBoing. Watch in amazement as tiny cattails are cracked open to reveal their TARDIS-like properties. It’s the rural equivalent of watching an ASMR video or one of those loops of folks cutting up kinetic sandCase in point: the below video, which we found at BoingBoing. Watch in amazement as tiny cattails are cracked open to reveal their TARDIS-like properties. It’s the rural equivalent of watching an ASMR video or one of those loops of folks cutting up kinetic sand.
As the cattail video proves, each stalk contains an abundance of seeds. Studies have shown these hardy seeds can germinate up to 60 months after burrowing into the ground, making them prime invasive species candidates. The most effective deterrent to cattails overtaking an area is to literally kill it with fire. But that’s not to say this flora is simply taking up space; American Indians were utilizing every part of the cattail for hundreds of years, with even a war or two breaking out over control of the land they grew on. Over in Europe, indigenous populations were harvesting cattails as early as 30,000 years ago.
Cattails can be eaten raw as young sprouts or the flowering stalks can be boiled and eaten like corn-on-the-cob. As a grain, they can also be ground down into flour. Cattails were also used as a glue paste to caulk watercraft or to make a salve for wounds. The copious fluff was utilized as wound dressing, bed stuffing, and insulation for both clothing and housing.