Questions on: Cattails

Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service


Q: I very much want to dry and preserve a few cattails in a vase. I remember as a child my mother did something with bleach, but I do not remember. Is there a way to dry and preserve them? (e-mail reference)

A: A clear lacquer, polyurethane or clear varnish spray is used. This method also works for other botanicals that tend to fluff when dried such as Golden Rod and Pussy Willow. If you would like an inexpensive method of lacquering, simply use an inexpensive hairspray from your cabinet or purchase it from local discount stores. I do not have any information about the bleach method your mother used.


Q: I was searching for information on cattails and saw questions directed to you on getting rid of them. I have the opposite problem. I want very much for them to be part of our landscape but haven't had luck transplanting mature plants from ditches. How can I grow them on my property along a storm sewer wash that flows regularly with rain water and gets four to six hours of midmorning to midafternoon sun? (E-mail reference)

A: I don't know what to tell you, so I'll try to depend on readers to tell me, and I can pass it on to you. Just be patient. It may take several weeks.


Q: I recently bought a chenille plant and am wondering, are the chenille droppings poisonous? I have a daycare and the nursery didn't know. (E-mail reference)

A: None of my references indicate any cautions for poisonings. However, I would still exercise every caution around the children, as they could still choke on the chenilles or cattails, and the plant may have been sprayed with a long residual toxin at the greenhouse.


Q: Due to the wet cycle we are in, I now have a small pond behind my home. I would like to keep part of the pond open and free of cattails for skating in the winter. The cattails are taking over more every year and restricting our view of the pond from the house, which I really enjoyed. How can I get rid of the cattails and safely keep them under control? (Huron, S.D., e-mail)

A: Cattails a problem? That is a question I thought I would never see from anyone, and I do not know of an acceptable way of getting rid of them. Perhaps one of our readers will know when they see this in the paper and send me a response. If that happens I'll gladly pass the answer on to you!


Q. Whenever I need advice on anything that grows in the ground, I think of you as I value  your expertise.

Please tell me how to get rid of the cattails growing in a ditch. (Tulare, S.D.)

A. It is hard for me to come up with a way of eliminating cattails, as they can be a source of  food for both us and the wildlife. As long as the ditch continues to fill up with water, cattails will recur. Try the herbicide Rodeo, an aquatic, non-crop, non-selective herbicide. It should work.


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