Cattails: Beneficial But Persistent

     When I talk with our customers, many of them with natural ponds or other water features inevitably bring up cattails. The things seem to spread by the day, taking up space in the water and crowding out other plants. Usually people joke about wishing some kind of fungus would target cattails so they could have their pond back. While cattails can be a nuisance, there’s no reason to completely eradicate them. Brush up on your cattails knowledge before deciding to reduce them in your yard.

What Are Cattails?

     To me, these are the most recognizable aquatic plant: tall and reedy topped with something that looks like a corn dog. Cattails are a prominent plant found mostly in wetlands around the world. Because of their many seeds, cattails proliferate quickly, spreading their seeds—as many as 220,000—on the wind. The seeds can live in soil for some time before germinating, meaning they can sneak back up on you when you think you’ve removed them all.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Cattails

     While cattails tend to frustrate those who have them in their backyards, the plants have served humans well throughout the centuries, providing food (its roots could be ground into a flour), hygiene products, feed for livestock, materials for furniture and home goods, pulp for paper, and more. Nowadays, we know cattails are a handy source for ethanol, a type of alcohol increasingly used as an alternative fuel. But this may not be such new information: people used to make wine from cattails.

     But with all of these benefits, cattails also offer a host of disadvantages. There’s the crowding out of other plants and its quick proliferation, as mentioned above. But cattails may also attract mosquitos and muskrats—hardly desirable—and will take over almost any small body of water, such as irrigation canals, farm ponds, and drainage ditches.

Treatment to Reduce Cattails

     If cattails are taking over your property, it may be time to take action. The best times of year to treat cattails are early spring and early fall. Your best option for control is to use AquaPro an aquatically approved herbicide. AquaPro® is a nice option on Cattails because you can get a root kill while being in control of how many weeds are eliminated. What you spray with AquaPro is what you will control. So if you only want to control a small section out of a large grouping of Cattails you can. Or if you want to eradicate the weed all together you just simply spray the entire section for full control.

AquaPro is a registered trademark of Dow AgroSciences.


Tim Bitz is Manager of Direct to Consumer Business for SePRO Corporation. He blogs about common water quality problems that consumers face at StewardsOfWater.com.