There is a particular set of plants that grow inflorescences that look like corn dogs. You may have seen them in flower arrangements and bouquets. Or you may have seen them from kids plucking them out from the wild and breaking them, releasing an explosion of white fluff.
The plants that look like corn dogs are called the Cattail and Bulrush plants. These corn dog looking plants are various species within the Typhaceae plant family, such as:
- Typha Latifolia (Common Cattail)
- Typha Angustifolia (Narrowleaf Cattail)
- Typha Laxmannii (Graceful Cattail)
- Typha Domingensis (Southern Cattail)
- Typha Minima (Miniature Cattail)
Let’s explore further!
The Typhaceae’ Corn Dog’ Family
The Typhaceae (Cattail) plant group is a series of aquatic, emergent, perennial herbs that shoot basal, undivided, flat, elongated, and narrow leaves. The pointy end of the stems usually consists of terminal, cylindrical, brown flowering spikes that we appear as corn dogs.
These Cattails multiply quickly from wind-transported seeds or self-multiplication from existing roots. They’re considered invasive and noxious plants in countries worldwide (including Australia) because of how well these weeds spread.
There is about 30 Typha genus variation that develops brown cylindrical Cattail hog dogs at the peak of their stems. In this article, we’ll explore five different varieties of these corn dog plants.
1. Typha Latifolia (Common Cattail)
The Common Cattails are native plant species found in North and South America, Eurasia, and Africa. These marsh plants are often found near waters and generally grow in flooded areas where the water depth does not exceed 2.6 feet (0.8 meters). It grows mainly in freshwater but also occurs in slightly brackish marshes.
Many children and even adults like to play with the thick corn dog section of the plant. When broken apart, it releases a flow of fluffy seeds. Check out this video to discover how densely packed the corn dog flowers are:
2. Typha Angustifolia (Narrowleaf Cattail)
As the name implies, the Narrowleaf Cattail is the slimmer version of the Common Cattail as it has a skinnier ‘corn dog’ body. It’s found in marshes, irrigation canals, fens, lake margins, and river streams.
The Narrowleaf Cattail tolerates continuous inundation and brackish waters. It is not bothered by silt and other fine soil material carried by running water. Its resilience to harsh aquatic environmental stressors allows it to form monocultures over natural habitats.
To further dominate their presence, the Narrow-leaved Cattail is thought to be allelopathic – producing chemicals that discourage and inhibit other plant species’ growth.
In regions where space is shared between the Common and Narrowleaf Cattail, the Common Cattail will live in shallower waters closer to the shorelines. In contrast, the Narrowleaf Cattail will survive in deeper waters of 6.5 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters).
The best time to distinguish between the Narrowleaf Cattail and Common Cattail is in the late summer when the flowers are fully developed. The Narrowleaf Cattail has a narrower flowering body and a 0.8 to 4.7 inch (2 to 12 cm) gap between the male and female portions of the flower.
3. Typha Laxmannii (Graceful Cattail)
The Graceful Cattail is a dwarf Cattail species that form a dense cluster of slender leaves in a sword-like shape. The yellowish male flowers are located at the top of the stalk, while the greenish female flowers sit two inches underneath. After pollination, the female flowers turn brown, giving that corn dog appearance as the seeds mature.
The Graceful Cattail invades freshwater marshes and shallow ponds in their natural habitat. They provide a source of food and shelter for muskrats, beavers, crayfish, and aquatic insects.
The Graceful Cattail is the more popular Cattail variety because of its small size. The catkins are slimmer than the Common Cattail, so it fits better in flower arrangements. It’s also an attractive addition to the garden pond as it mimics the natural wetlands in the wild.
4. Typha Domingensis (Southern Cattail)
The Southern Cattail is a little different from the other Cattails we’ve looked at so far in that it can tolerate higher salinity than the other Cattail species. This species also can survive in deeper waters than its other forms.
One way to distinguish the Southern Cattail from the other Typha varieties is the position between the male and female flowers. The Common Cattails are placed close to each other, whereas the Southern Cattail has flower clusters between one to four inches apart.
Take a five-minute virtual tour of the Southern Cattail here:
5. Typha Minima (Miniature Cattail)
Perhaps the cutest Cattail of all is the Miniature Cattail. This Cattail species is the smallest of all Cattails, only reaching between 12 to 13 inches (30 to 80 cm) in height.
This species is a rare plant that grows only in certain regions of temperate Europe and Asia. This plant is so small that it cannot tolerate more than 1 inch of water above its roots.
The Minature Cattail is a popular corn dog plant to buy online as many gardeners love to add these to their ponds as decoration. It gives a touch of authenticity and beauty to any water garden feature.