Ecological Importance

Cattails can help keep lakes and ponds healthy by filtering runoff, reducing nutrients and preventing shoreline erosion. Cattails provide nesting habitat for many species of wildlife and birds. Animals such as beavers and muskrats, use cattails for a variety of reasons, including food, den material, and as an escape from predators. Fish species, including northern pike, may spawn along or behind a cattail fringe.


Cattails account for nearly all pond owner complaints regarding emergent plants. Cattails are known to spread rapidly, completely surround ponds and extending several feet into the water creating a monoculture. Established cattails populations accelerate the transition from open water to a dominant emergent weed pond.

Cattails are highly attractive to muskrats, a mammal that can damage a pond in some circumstances. Dams and shorelines are vulnerable to their burrowing activities, compromising integrity.

Plant Description:

Cattails have flat to slightly rounded leaves that twist slightly over their length and can grow to 5 or 10 feet in height. Flowers form a dense dark brown, cigar-shape at the end of spikes (called the catkin). Cattails can be partially submerged or in boggy areas with no permanently standing water. Cattails spread rapidly because their seeds blow in the wind and float on the water's surface. Cattails also spread from underground rhizomes.

Hints to Identify

Look for the fuzzy brown "cattail" near the top of the stalk. Leaves are long, flat, and about 1-inch wide.

Homeowner Treatment Options
Clearcast/MSO Combo
Shoreline Defense
*Aquatic Biologists recommends implementing preventative management techniques and physical removal prior to, or in conjunction with treatment.


 Common Application Questions

Q. When is the best time to treat?

A. Cattails should be treated when mature from July to approximately one week before the first killing frost. Cattails can be treated sooner but the need for a repeat application increases.

Q. Can I treat a portion of the Cattails?

A. Yes, because the application is topical it will only affect the cattails that are sprayed so you can choose to control a percentage.

Q. Do I have to treat Cattails every year?

A. No, control can last anywhere from three to five years or more depending upon if you treat all the cats or a portion. Ninety plus percent of Cattails are controlled the first year within the chosen treatment site. Some follow up is usually required the second season.

Q. How long before I see results?

A. Generally within ten days the tips will begin to turn brown migrating towards the base. If you wish to remove the treated Cattails wait at least two weeks post treatment to insure that the root structure has been destroyed or just let the cattails decompose.