Friday, June 02, 2006
Friend Or Foe?
I had been hoping that these were some really vigorous blue flag iris growing down by the pond. I had transplanted some iris from my garden to the pond last year, but as spring rolled on and the leaves grew taller and taller, it was harder to convince myself. Then the cattail spike appeared.
So now I have cattails in my tiny pond. That's a first. The seeds may have drifted in or been in a bucket of river water I dumped in as I added critters to the pond.
These guys are native, so in my book they get a grace period automatically. I've always liked cattails...to the point of eating them a time or two. The underground rhizomes have a cucumbery flavor which is not bad, but not something I crave either. I've never tried the tops even though the young "tails" are supposed to be edible.
As kids, we loved it when Dad would soak the cattail head in kerosene and then we would parade around with our torches on summer evenings, dripping sparks and burning fragments. You had to plan for that moment when the stalk burned through to avoid the falling, flaming head. Thank God there weren't any video games then.
Cattails provide lots of cover for wildlife and alot of marsh birds will use them as nesting sites. I remember finding lots of redwing blackbird nests woven in cattails in Savannah National Wildlife Refuge years ago. Each woven cup held 2 or 3 chicks. Other birds, like those masters of disguise, the Bitterns, are practically designed around the cattail motif.
Here in Florida, Cattails get negative press farther south where too many humans have made too many changes to the glades. Development and the big sugar companies (could we puleeeeze drop the stupid decades old Cuban embargo nonsense...Castro will be dead soon) have screwed up the sheet flow from Lake O. south to Florida Bay to such an extent that the conditions in much of the glades favor cattails over the "locally native" sawgrasses. Cattails are invading and replacing the sawgrasses and other glades wetland plants and in that case they are a menace to a delicate system.
I imagine my cattails will become ,like the clever black willows, a headache of my own making. In coming years, I'll pull and cut, fussing about their ability to "take over" the very habitat they were made for...
Posted by R.Powers at 6:29 AM