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Community Field Guide

Scientific Name:
Typha latifolia Western Herbaceous Vegetation

Common Name:
Broadleaf cattail Marsh

Photo by Jack Greenlee

Community Description

This association is widespread across the western United States and western Great Plains occurring near streams, rivers, and ponds. The soil is flooded or saturated for at least part of the growing season. The dominant species, Typha latifolia, often forms dense, almost monotypic stands. Carex spp. and Schoenoplectus spp. (= Scirpus spp.) are often found in this community, especially on the margins.

The Typha latifolia community is a broadly distributed, extremely common emergent wetland type that occurs from low to mid elevations characteristically on permanently to semi- permanently flooded sites. Sites on the Red Rock Lakes NWR are often associated with water depths in excess of four feet and have a deep organic matter accumulated over silts and other fines. However, exposed mineral soil is required for germination and establishment Typha latifolia so that these sites presumably dry out in extreme years so as to facilitate these processes. The Typha latifolia type often occurs in small, individually unmapped patches, as part of a wetland mosaic with Schoenoplectus acutus (= Scirpus acutus) (in equally deep water) or as narrow stringers along channels removed from the main water bodies where Carex utriculata communities are found immediately adjacent on sites with shallower water depths. Hansen et al. (1995) indicate that Typha latifolia is not as tolerant of brackish water as is Schoenoplectus acutus but this is not the factor separating these sites, rather it is probably a matter of priority of establishment and subsequent competition for substrate.

Typha latifolia (or Typha angustifolia), usually exceeding 75% canopy cover, dominate these sites with few other forbs or graminoids present due to the constantly wet conditions. Scattered individuals from adjacent slightly less wet communities often include Carex utriculata, Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani (= Scirpus validus), Beckmannia syzigachne, Polygonum amphibium and Epilobium ciliatum.

Typha latifolia Herbaceous Vegetation is widely distributed, occurring across the western United States and western Great Plains.

This association is dependent on flooding and high water tables from flowing freshwater sources, such as streams and seeps, and does not grow well in alkaline or stagnant water (Von Loh 2000). Disturbance greatly increases the total number of species present (Hansen et al. 1995). Typha spp. produce abundant wind-dispersed seeds that allow them to colonize wet bare soil sites quickly and to survive under wet conditions (Muldavin et al. 1999, Hansen et al. 1995).

Some consider Typha latifolia to be too aggressive for use in wetland restoration projects (Mitsch and Gosselink 1993) because of its ability to form dense monocultures.

Global Rank: G5 State Rank: S5

Community References


J. Drake, mod. K. Schulz and S. V. Cooper, MTNHP

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This information is from the:
Montana Natural Heritage Program
Montana State Library--Natural Resource Information System
1515 East Sixth Ave., Helena, MT 59620-1800
406 444-5354