Thursday, September 19, 2013


They are considered an invasive species, but I have always liked cattails (Typha), a unique plant with a sausage shaped conglomeration of tiny flowers on its long, slender stem.

Cattails on the Edge of a Wetland Near the Nature Trail

I don't know how long cattails have been growing on Ocracoke Island, but I don't remember seeing any when I was a youngster. Cousin Blanche says there never were many on the island. She was about fourteen years old when she first saw cattails.

Blanche and several friends walked "Up Trent" to see a stand of cattails that had sprouted at the edge of a small wetland area. Islanders were cutting them to include in dry table arrangements. She speculates that perhaps seeds washed over here during a hurricane.

Today cattails can be seen at the edges of the marsh near Island Creek and elsewhere in the National Park.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an account of the recent skirmishes islanders have had with North Carolina legislatures over the issue of ferry tolls...and a 1955 newspaper editorial advocating free, state-operated ferries across Hatteras Inlet. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous9:25 AM

    Good morning Philip and all blog readers!

    I, too, love cattails - but I was a little surprised to see them described as an "invasive" plant. They might be new to Ocracoke, but are present in the marshes around the Bodie Island light house. (They're photogenic, so I have them in photos...)

    Cattails are native to North America, and are present nationwide.
    (US Dept. of Agriculture of "native status" map here: )
    It's also a really interesting plant: it provides food an shelter for a variety of animals, and all its parts are edible for humans. (More info here: )

    Unfortunately, there is a truly invasive, introduced, non-native reed to be concerned about, though. In NC marshes, too... It's Phragmites australis - I really hope it doesn't find its way to the Outer Banks.
    (nore here: )

    If you're interested to read more, just copy the web addresses and paste them into your browser.

    This may have been more than anyone wanted to see. If so, I'm sorry.

    Philip, I truly treasure my morning visits to Ocracoke! Your daily blog entries, accompanied by a cup of coffee, make for a wonderful start of each day. Thank you!


    1. Pat Garber had an article about phragmites in our local paper, the Ocracoke Observer. Do any of our readers know if the reeds across the highway from the Pub are phragmites?

  2. Anonymous3:51 PM

    invasive? i have never even thought about that. I have them around my water garden where they mind their own business. they have been in the same spot for years, not really spreading out. anyway they remind me of nice times around lakes marshes or sounds they all add up to a nice picture. i am glad that you are the kind of person that notices things around you, spiders, snakes, cattails, sunsets or just the way it looks like down howard st....not a darn thing wrong with any of that. this is why i am a reader of your site.