cattail or reed mace, any plant of the genus Typha, perennial herbs found in almost all open marshes. The cattail (also called club rush) has long narrow leaves, sometimes used for weaving chair seats, and a single tall stem bearing two sets of tiny flowers, the male flowers above the female. The pollinated female flowers form the familiar cylindrical spike of fuzzy brown fruits; the male flowers drop off and leave a naked stalk tip. The starchy rootstock can be used for food. Cattails are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Typhales, family Typhaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.