08 February 2010

Punks make my day

Sorry, yes, yet another picture of these cattails/bulrushes. In fact, if my digital camera files outlive me, I'm beginning to worry that my descendants will think that I'm suffering from an unhealthy obsession, as I've taken so many photographs of them. I love the way the seed heads unravel. With everything else in a winter stasis, these are one of the few things in my landscape that are changing every day. And just look at the colour of that sky.

What I didn't know until recently was that most parts of these plants are edible. The seeds themselves were used as stuffing for pillows and for lining moccasins, according to the mine of information at this site, while the brown heads burn slowly, so were used as fuses (known as candlewicks or punks) and are also effective at keeping mosquitoes away.

Another reason I'm intrigued by this particular stand of cattails is that they are fairly new. I dug out a photo of the pond from November 2007 and you can see that there are no reeds in the foreground.

The photo below, taken on 30 January this year, from roughly the same place, shows how much they've grown since them. The seeds are so light that they are easily distributed by the wind. The plants also spread underwater through their rhizomes.

They are an invasive species but they also perform a valuable role in filtering impurities from water, so I'm not too worried about them taking over. I'm looking forward to tasting the shoots in early summer: they're supposed to be like cucumber and can even be made into pickles!


joey said...

Agree, very important for healthy wetlands. I love them too :)

Northern Beauty Seeker said...

I had no idea they were edible! When we were children we used them as magic wands :)

Callie Brady said...

Very pretty photos. Love the pond and cattails. When I volunteered as a docent at a museum I remember being told that the local indians collected and used the cattail fluff in the carriers that they made for their babies. The fluff was a kind of disposable diaper material that could be thrown away when soiled and easily replaced.

Diana Studer said...

The 'proper' Greek name Typha means marsh, which I understand. Or cat's tail, which mystified me. To me it is a bulrush. Not sure if I want to eat them?

Lou Murray's Green World said...

I've eaten young cattail heads, while they were green, not once they turn brown. They tasted a bit like corn and a bit like aspargus. But they were dry and needed a lot of butter. Maybe I picked them a bit late. I have a friend who collects the cattail pollen to put into muffins.