Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide

Cattail marsh  (S4)



Cattail marshes
are a common, specific type of emergent marsh. Common cattail (Typha latifolia) dominates, often to the exclusion of all other species. They occur statewide, and are found in open water basins, protected coves of larger waterbodies, and along small stream drainageways, generally in lower elevation parts of the state. They are usually at least seasonally flooded with permanently saturated soils. Water levels remain at or above the ground surface year round. The saturated soils may be mucky organic, or mineral with a high organic content. Dead thatch from the previous year’s growth can form a thick ground cover in well-developed clonal stands.

The non-native and invasive n
arrow-leaved cattail (Typha angustifolia) also occurs in communities associated with basins along tidal rivers (see brackish marsh); in small depressions along the upper edge of low graminoid brackish marshes (see salt pannes and pools); and within the zone between mean sea level and mean high tide along brackish tidal river- and stream-banks (see low brackish riverbank marsh).

Birds that breed in cattail marshes include American bittern, least bittern, sora, Virginia rail, marsh wren, swamp sparrow, red-winged blackbird, common moorhen, and several species of waterfowl.

Characteristic vegetation:
Common cattail (Typha latifolia) may dominate and exclude nearly all other species or may co-dominate with other herbs and shrubs. The non-natives narrow-leaved cattail and/or Typha x glauca (glaucous cattail) can locally dominate as well. Associates may include tussock sedge (Carex stricta), woolly bulrush (Scirpus cyperinus), lesser bur-reed (Sparganium americanum), mannagrasses (Glyceria spp.), bluejoint (Calamagrostis canadensis), common reed (Phragmites australis), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), lesser duckweed (Lemna minor), common water horehound (Lycopus uniflorus), swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris), red maple (Acer rubrum) seedlings and saplings, and several species of shrubs including meadowsweet (Spiraea alba), winterberry (Ilex verticillata), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), northern arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum), and maleberry (Lyonia ligustrina).

Variants: Two variants are described.

1. Typic variant: As described above.

2. River channel variantCattail marshes immediately adjacent to rivers are influenced by river flooding and alluvial soils and may support a different array of species. More sampling is required to determine whether river channel cattail marshes are distinct from others. Infrequent species include purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), water purslane (Ludwigia palustris), pickerel-weed (Pontederia cordata), white water-lily (Nymphaea odorata), common arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia), water-milfoil (Myriophyllum sp.), common waterweed (Elodea canadensis), sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), monkey flower (Mimulus ringens), mad-dog skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Pennsylvania bitter cress (Cardamine pensylvanica), false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica), fowl mannagrass (Glyceria striata), and least spike-rush (Eleocharis acicularis).


Good examples occur along the Connecticut River (Hinsdale) and Crommet Creek (Durham), and at Pawtuckaway State Park (Nottingham) and Smith Pond Bog (Hopkinton).

Cattail marshes sometimes occur as part of larger emergent marsh - shrub swamp systems.


Cattail marsh in the headwaters of Beaver Brook in Mont Vernon (photo by Ben Kimball)
Cattail marsh
 near the headwaters of Beaver Brook in Mont Vernon (photo by Ben Kimball)


Cattail marsh at Sunset Hill (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Cattail marsh at Sunset Hill in Newbury (photo by Ben Kimball)

cattail (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) cattail close-up (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)

Cattail marsh at Blow-Me-Down Pond (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Cattail marsh at Blow-Me-Down Pond in Cornish (photo by Ben Kimball)

Cattail marsh in Deerfield (photo by Dan Sperduto)
Cattail marsh in Deerfield (photo by Dan Sperduto)


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