Cattail, also known as bulrush (Typha angustifolia) is an aquatic plant with 2 m long, narrow leaves that grow vertically up. The unisexual flowers are small and densely crowded along the end of an equally tall spike. The male flowers are crowded along the tip of the spike while the female flowers, appearing more compact, darker brown and distinctly cigar-like, are found below. The two types of flowers are separated by a short bare portion of the spike. The fruits are minute and covered with fluffy hairs that help them in wind dispersal.
Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers (Dicaeum cruentatum) regularly collect the hairy fruits when they ripen. These birds can be seen perching along the spike and carefully picking at the fluff. In the process they shake off more of the fruits than they collect. This no doubt helps in the natural dispersal of the fruits (below).
The fluff is used to line the inside of their pouch-like nests. Various sunbirds also use these fluff to line their nests.
According to our bird specialist, R. Subaraj, cattails make an excellent habitat for certain birds such as bitterns, reed-warblers and rails. They also provide a good hiding place for various waterbirds.