Animals, such as muskrats, crayfish, aquatic insects and humans, regularly eat cattails. In addition to providing nutrients, cattails are also important for providing cover and a place to lay eggs for many species.
Cattails exists largely in the Northern Hemisphere where they are found in wet habitats, including ponds, streams and marshes. There are two categories of species of cattails: broad leaf and narrow leaf. The most common species of cattail is the Typha latifolia. Cattails grow up to 10 feet tall and have very large leaves that look like blades of grass. They are most easily distinguished by their reproductive parts, including a large, brown, cylindrical shoot and a yellow spike. Cattails are typically found in dense clusters right on the edge and even up to 2 feet in the water. Cattails flower from May through July, during which fluffy seeds are released by the spikes and carried by the wind or animals such as birds.
Cattails also spread through their rhizomes, which are starchy, root-like structures. Muskrats regularly consume this part of the plant. Crayfish and aquatic insects, such as beetles, feed on the stems, leaves, and decomposing parts of the cattail. Throughout history, humans have used cattails in a number of ways, most commonly for the production of flour and textiles. Every part of the cattail plant is edible to humans, though it is rarely eaten.