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Identifying Native and Invasive Cattails

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    Identifying Native and Invasive Cattails

    Dear Shish and Gunlock property owners: Thanks Mike Rooney for this info.

    Our 2022 Lake Sweeps Program will be wrapping up this August. Our Sweep Teams have done a wonderful job monitoring every foot of shoreline on both lakes looking for existing or new infestations of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS).

    This email blast highlights one of the invasive species that we’d like you to be on the lookout for, on your own sections of shoreline. It will be the last educational blast for this summer and will focus on Narrow leaf Cattail which is a “restricted” invasive species. Under that classification, Wisconsin does not require it’s removal. Our teams have generated GPS locations for every infestation we currently know about. That being said, as lake front property owners, if you spot something on your shoreline that fits the description below or simply have a question, please contact me, Mike Rooney at [email protected]. I’ll get back to you as soon as I am able. Additionally, if the existing beds are on your shoreline, we’d also like you to monitor for increases in bed size or spread to nearby locations. Approximate locations will be provided below.

    Cattail Identification

    See attached Images

    Broad-leaf Cattail: native to our lakes

    There are a number of Broad-leaf cattail stands on our lakes. This aquatic plant is identified below.
    • Pale green, sword-like leaves 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide
    • Female flowers form a spike 4 to 6 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide that turns
      brown and fuzzy in the fall and looks like a hotdog on a stick
    • Male flowers form a spike directly above the female flowers with very little or no space between the female and male spikes and will drop off the stem once pollen is released

    Narrow-leaf Cattail: “Restricted” Invasive on our lakes

    During the summer of 2019 while Ontera was conducting a weed survey of both lakes, one stand of Narrow-leaf Cattail was discovered on the northwest shoreline of Gunlock. Three beds were discovered on Shish, one on the south side of Joe’s Bay and two in South Bay at the southwest end of Shish past Scotty’s Island.

    Dark green, sword-like leaves 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide
    • Female flowers form a spike 4 to 8 inches long and 1/2 to 1 inch wide that turns brown and fuzzy in the fall and looks like a hotdog on a stick
    • Male flowers form a spike generally 1 to 4 inches above the female flowers and will drop off the stem once pollen is released

    The difference in the widths of the leaves of these two plants can be very subtle, making it difficult to properly identify the invasive. The easiest way is to wait until the female and male flowers appear. As stated above, Broad-leaf will have little or no space between the female and male flowers. Narrow-leaf will have 1 to 4 inches between these two parts.

    Cattails grow from rhizomes and seeds. Rhizomes produce shoots in the fall that begin to sprout in the spring once sunlight can reach the soil. Seeds will germinate on exposed mudflats. One seed can create a large network of rhizomes with hundreds of shoots in a single growing season.

    The flower spikes are formed by mid-summer. The male spike starts out green and turns yellow when the flowers begin releasing pollen. Cattail pollen is spread by the wind and after the pollen is released, the male flowers drop off the stalk. The female flower spike is covered in a sheath and is green until the sheath drops off once the flowers are mature. Then the female spike will turn brown.

    The individual female flowers that make up the spike will form nutlets or remain sterile after fertilization. Each nutlet has a fluff of fine hairs that allows it to be carried by the wind. The brown flower spikes will begin to open and release the nutlets in the fall, some nutlets will stay attached to the flower stalk until the following spring.

    Thanks to Mike Rooney and his shore sweeps team for their vigilance in monitoring and working to control our AIS infestations. Every SGLA family can help this cause by personally monitoring their shoreline throughout summer and quicky reporting to Mike or the Board any suspicious plant growing on the shore. We can also help prevent new AIS in our lakes by personally monitoring and removing any plants from our boats and trailers as we move any watercraft in and out of our lakes, especially if they've been in other lakes. Finally, you can also join the shore sweeps team and volunteer to inspect boats at the Gunlock boat ramp to help prevent AIS!!