Cattails are useful as a fire starting aid, to make baskets and as insulation. Cattails are also edible and are believed to have medicinal properties.
The fluff contained inside the head of a cattail is quite flammable and can be used to help start a fire. Coating the head of the cattail with pine resin turns it into a simple survival torch. It is also possible to weave cattailleaves together to form mats, baskets and even shelters. Braided, the leaf strips can double as cordage. Stuffed into hats and shoes, the fluff inside the cattail's head is useful as an additional layer of protection from the elements during emergencies.
The flower, stem and root of a cattail are all edible. The roots and stems are most tender in the early summer and can be eaten raw or boiled. The roots are useful for making starch if they are harvested later in the year. After roasting, the flower heads of cattails are edible. The pollen that gathers on the flower heads in the summer is great for thickening sauces and for making bread or pancakes. Note that cattails are not edible for all animals. Cattails also find use in the treatment of minor cuts, scrapes and burns.