Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Narrowleaf Cattail - Typha angustifolia   L.
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Section 5 » Order Typhales » Family Typhaceae
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DistributionThroughout the coastal and tidewater regions, including nearly all counties around Albemarle and Pamlico sounds.

The natural range of this species is uncertain and controversial. It is native in Eurasia, and generally believed to be native at least to the northeastern Atlantic coast of North America, south at least to the Carolinas. However, it is certainly not native in the interior of the continent. Weakley (2018) states "Stuckey & Salamon (1987) considered T. angustifolia an invasive alien in North America, but later studies suggest that it was native at least in coastal areas of ne. and Mid-Atlantic North America, and has expanded its range westward in recent decades (Shih & Finkelstein 2008)". This statement appears legitimate for NC, as if it were an exotic species, it would have been collected in inland NC in marshes away from the coastal region. But, the SERNEC database lists only one such inland collection (Moore County from the 1970s).
AbundanceInfrequent to locally common in its somewhat restricted NC range, found at the upper ends of embayed rivers as far inland as Hertford, Beaufort, and Jones counties. Locally abundant in Dare County oligohaline marshes and Outer Banks brackish marshes.
HabitatIn NC, the species is restricted to brackish to more often oligohaline (slightly brackish) waters, of tidal marshes, ditches, and lake/pond margins. Most plants grow around the upper margins (less saline and less strongly tidal) of sounds and embayed rivers.
See also Habitat Account for Coastal Freshwater and Low-Salinity Marshes
PhenologyFlowers from May to July, and fruits from June to November.
IdentificationThis is a familiar coastal species, though not as widely seen or known as is T. latifolia. This cattail grows erectly, with the stem reaching 3-5 feet tall, and the leaves coming off the lower part of the stem, usually 10 or fewer leaves. Each leaf is dark green, up to 6 feet tall, but only about 1/5-1/4-inch wide. These leaves are strongly convex on the back, whereas the wider leaves of T. domingensis are only moderately convex on the back and are a more yellow-green in color. Each of these two species has the staminate spike separated on the stem from the lower pistillate spike; the widespread T. latifolia has these two spikes in contact. These spikes are brownish in color; however, this species has a narrow and dark brown pistillate spike whereas that of the taller and more robust T. domingensis has a wider orange-brown or rusty-brown pistillate spike. T. latifolia has much wider leaves that are yellow-green in color, easily separated from the very narrow and dark-green leaves of this species.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS3? [S4]
Global RankG5
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