Cattails - good or bad?

ovenbirdSeptember 4, 2007

Two years ago we moved into our house which has a 30'x40' retention pond in the backyard. It is home to water lilies, goldfish, frogs, crayfish and probably a lot of other things. This year we've noticed a few cattails starting to grow along the edges. Is this a good or bad thing? Just wondering if we should leave them be. Thanks!

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comettose(7)

They will take over the whole pond unless the center depth of the water is self limiting (too deep for them to grow). I would take them out now while you can, but eventually they will surround your whole pond. They look great if they would just stay in a limited area but they will encircle your whole pond eventually if you don't battle them all the time.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 6:20PM
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ovenbird

comettose, what is "too deep"? The pond slopes toward the center where it is a whopping 12' deep. But the edges are fairly shallow.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 6:51PM
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comettose(7)

Twelve feet deep is too deep so they will not get into the center of your pond.

I am not positive on the exact depth but I've seen lots of wetlands with big cattails. There are many types of Typha (cattail) from 6 inches to 12 feet or more. The really big cattails in the saltmarshes around here won't go deeper than 2 feet and prefer less. Most cattails grow in water about 1 foot deep or less. Cattail will move sideways like crazy in the damp shallows or moist edges. A shallow pond will be nothing but cattails in short order if left uncontrolled. If your pond quickly goes to 2 feet of water depth expect the cattails to stop about there, but over time the silt will build around them and they may move in a bit more.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 7:05PM
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beth4(z5 - Utah)

I like the looks of cattails, but didn't want the invasive problem, so I have 2 pots of cattails that I place in the pond. They get the cat tails on them, they look like cattails, but they're contained within the pots.

To winter over, I just sink the pots.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 7:23PM
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LauraZone5

The problem with cattails and phragmites in my area is that even when they only colonize along the edge of a freshwater retention pond, they can still generate a tremendous amount of what is referred to as biomass. If you think about it, cattails are a lot of plant. The current years growth dies back and some of the plant material falls in the water. The following spring new growth pushes up through the old growth and then the old growth falls down into the water and what really happens is that over time, the 12' bottom of the retention pond gets slowly but surely filled in with the biomass of the cattails combined with other debris. Now the cattails and phragmites can spread out even more, lucky us. This is why a lot of freshwater retention ponds have to be dredged every 10 years or so. Dredging is expensive in and of itself and then we get hit with the costs of removing and disposing of all the material that was dredged out. Cattails are nice if they are companion planted with other species that can keep them in check like what Mayor Daley has been doing in Chicago but even then they still get out of control and frequently have to be managed which costs mucho $$$.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 1:02AM
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ovenbird

Thanks for all the replies. Sounds like we will soon be busy pulling out the cattails!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 9:59AM
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LauraZone5

Hold on a bit. Too much work. The water levels are high right now because of all the rain we've had. Go out and cut them down about 4" below the surface of the water. You can actually drown cattails. No chemicals at all and you'll kill more this way then pulling them out by hand.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 1:24PM
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comettose(7)

I would!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 1:24PM
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LauraZone5

Here's a link I found for you that explains the process better than I did-

cattail eradication

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 1:27PM
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ovenbird

laurazone5, thanks for explaining the drowning process and including the link! We can keep the pond level above the cut ends using a hose and our well water. Even though we have only two very small patches, this certainly sounds easier than pulling them up. Now we just have to battle those horrible hordes of mosquitos.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 2:27PM
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LauraZone5

Let's see here, you've got just over 100,000 gallons of water with a surface area of somewhere around 1200 sq ft. Toss in 12 of

these then toss in one or two more for good measure and call it a day. That should provide some much needed relief. Other than that, buy stock in Deep Woods Off maybe? We're sold out around here with all the water and there are a few stores that have outgoing message tapes that let people know they are out of mosquito spray. It's a bad year, a very bad year for skeeters.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 9:25PM
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cattaillover

ovenbird, Oh my goodness....How I wish I had a 30'X 40' retention pond in my back yard to grow cattails. Cattails are delicious eating. In Spring and early Summer, the cattail shoots are one of the best tasting veggies one can find. In Summer, the flower (The one that turns brown and looks like a cigar) can be cooked for 10 minutes and you eat it like corn on the cob. You can get flour from cattails also. Check out this website for additional information. The rhizome (roots) shoots are very tasty also. http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Cattails.htm

The crayfish make great meals too. I use cattail shoots with a weed called purslane as a fresh salad. I add onions cut in small pieces, and jicama. I put the flowers from the johnny jump up plant along with small rose buds that are just beginning to bloom. This morning, I added purslane to my omelet. Many more recipes too. Thanks for listening. Ken

    Bookmark   September 28, 2007 at 3:22PM
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