When I think of wetlands, the image that first comes to mind is cattails (Typha angustifolia). Our home and property, which I named Marshview, is surrounded on three sides by wetlands. A wetland is a land area that is saturated with water and is a distinct ecosystem. Our wetlands do not support fish since they only have standing water during the spring thaw and rains. In the summer, the wetland soil is thick and mucky. They may fill up with water come fall. In the winter, the wetland soil freezes making it easy for us to hike in them.
Every ecosystem has its foundation plant. Bluestem grasses in prairies; oaks and maples in the eastern deciduous forests; and the prickly pear cactus in the North American desert. In my wetland ecosystem, the cattail is the foundation plant.
Cattails need wet feet to grow and they thrive in areas where water is less than two feet deep. They spread their seeds with the wind and also via rhizomes so they can quickly take over an area thus gardeners with ponds may not be very fond of cattails.
Cattails grow up to 10 feet tall, though they grow to about half that at Marshview. They grow in dense clumps that look like very tall blades of grass until the telltale brown ‘cattail’ appears. The thick clumps make perfect cover for the animals that live in the wetland, such as mallards and Canada Geese. In the spring, frogs lay their eggs in the water around the cattails stems. Deer, raccoons, and turkey use cattails as cover. Muskrats eat the stems and also use the stems to build their dens. Birds use the downy seed material to line their nests. Red-winged blackbirds build their nests in cattails clumps.
Cattails are a rather humble plant, but because I have cattails growing around Marshview I am able to enjoy the beautiful wildlife that lives and visits my garden
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