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Cattails are herbaceous, colonial, rhizomatous, perennial plants with long, slender, green stalks topped with brown, fluffy, sausage-shaped flowering heads. Typha angustifolia plants are 15-30 dm tall. The spike-like, terminal, cylindric inflorescence has staminate flowers above and pistillate flowers below. The naked axis between the staminate and pistillate flowers is generally 1-8 cm. The spike is medium to dark brown. The basal leaves are thin with parallel veins running their long, narrow length. The leaves are 4-12 mm wide when fresh, 3-8 mm wide when dry.
Typha angustifolia generally occurs in deeper water than Typha latifolia. Typha angustifolia has fewer and larger rhizomes, resulting in a low rate of cloning but enabling it to grow in deeper water than Typha latifolia. Typha angustifolia has a higher allocation to sexual reproduction. Cattails spread both vegetatively and by seed, particularly under drawdown conditions.