Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Cattail coming undone

with 16 comments

Cattail Coming Undone 4214

Click for greater clarity in all that fluff.

While we’re on the subject of releasing seeds, aren’t you fond of the way a cattail, Typha domingensis, comes undone? I am. I photographed this one unraveling at a sump on Samsung Blvd. in northeast Austin on August 12th.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 20, 2013 at 6:02 AM

16 Responses

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  1. Holy sump fluff, Batman. I like the kind of sparkle effect on this, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    September 20, 2013 at 6:13 AM

    • Your first sentence is one that I was sure no commenter has ever used here, so I did a Google search for the phrase “Holy sump fluff” and got not a single hit. You should hurry up and trademark the phrase and take the URL before someone else does.

      Your mention of sparkle made me think of sparks, which in turn made me think of fire and reminded me that people throughout the ages have used cattails to make torches. In fact cattails turn out to have many uses, as I found in an article that has a subtitle on a par with your phrase, “The super WalMart of the swamp”:


      Steve Schwartzman

      September 20, 2013 at 6:57 AM

      • Well, it is possible that Robin uttered those words, but I just think it took a perfect storm of subject and location for that phrase to be spoken, Steve. Maybe there could be a market though.

        Sent from my iPhone


        Steve Gingold

        September 20, 2013 at 9:03 AM

  2. Our cattails have exploded, too.

    If I type in ALL CAPS, can you hear me better. We are much closer. We drove from IA to Enid, OK yesterday. Visiting our son at Vance AFB.

    Jim in IA

    September 20, 2013 at 7:45 AM

  3. Cattails and milkweed – more fun per inch than almost any other plant. But I can’t believe it’s time for them to come undone. It is September, of course, but we’re stuck in mid-summer. If you happen to see that cold front, give it a kick this direction so we can start thinking about fall!


    September 20, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    • That’s two kinds of fluff to double your fun.

      I’m in Ft. Worth this evening and it is a little cooler now that all the rain has passed through.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 20, 2013 at 9:45 PM

  4. Steve, you have reminded me of the first time I played with a cattail. I was exploring its qualities, and then gave it a little pinch. It responded by exploding in fluff! I was stunned at first and then just went for it. My father was not impressed by the mess on the front lawn. I still secretly enjoy giving them a pinch now and again. 😉


    September 20, 2013 at 10:56 PM

    • Pinch away! I read that a cattail can produce 200,000 seeds—all of them to delight the child in you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 21, 2013 at 8:34 AM

  5. Just a couple of days ago I spent some time with a trimmer (weedeater) clearing the dam at our pond. (It’s too steep to do any other way and unless we keep it mowed saplings will root, jeopardizing the dam.) This time of year when I hit the cattails while doing it, I’m answered with a shower of that fluff.

    As you probably know, cattails are edible in the spring. They taste a little like asparagus.


    September 21, 2013 at 5:56 AM

    • I’d read that young cattails are edible but haven’t yet tried one. An asparagus-y taste would be welcome; you seem to be speaking from experience.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 21, 2013 at 8:38 AM

  6. This is marvellous; I love the terminology of “coming undone”. It is fascinating.

    M. Firpi

    September 22, 2013 at 10:20 AM

    • I’m glad you like the seed head and the description of its disintegration. I’ve been fascinated by cattails for a long time, and with the aid of a pair of rubber boots that I keep in my car trunk I’ve sometimes been able to get close to otherwise inaccessible specimens (though I didn’t need boots for the one shown here).

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2013 at 5:36 PM

  7. I’ve always enjoyed watching the slow-fireworks display of cattails exploding. Great shot!


    September 23, 2013 at 11:04 AM

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