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Cattails, The Pond Super Plant - The Prequel #47 Traditional Geocache

Hidden : 08/26/2022
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Geocache Description:

This geocache is part of the Gold Country GeoTour – The Prequel: Be A Guest.  This GeoTour focuses on a step back in time to learn about before the Gold Rush ensued: languages of the region’s culturally diverse families, handed down traditions such as recipes, flora and fauna, historic sites of significance, and points of interest. These stories will help preserve the oral languages and traditions of the region as well as assist in educating visitors and locals alike to the cultural diversity and environmental sensitivity of the region.


Cattails: Typha Latifolia also known as Broad Leaf Cattail or Bulrushes.

Secwépemc: kwtellp, kwetéllp, ts'lut (bulrush, cattail)

Northern St̓át̓imcets: q̓ámq̓wa7 (cattail plant, cigar shape on cattail plant), sław’in’ (used as down in pillows, bedding, or blankets), q’ámqʷ’-z’ or q’ám’qʷ’-az’ (fruiting plants), q’iq’ts’ (mat: weave-weave)

Nlaka’pamux: kʷuʔtéytx (immerse foliage), sxʷuxʷełqʷʔ (cottony tops, seed heads), tseltselkáia (rhizome)

Syilx: q̓ʷastqin̓ (cattail)

Lil’wat: kwtáltecw (cattail, female cattail, cattail stem for weaving mats), t̓ú7l̓acw (cattail plant root)

English Translation: Cattail


Family: Typhaceae

Origin: Native plant species in North and South America, Eurasia, and Africa.

Duration: Perennial

Color: Brown cigar-shaped head with leaves that are basal, erect, linear, flat, D-shaped, ribbon-like structures and are pale grayish green in colour.

Typical Bloom: The female cattail flower consists of two parts: a cigar-shaped brown formation near the top of the stem made up of tiny, densely packed pistillate (female) flowers, and a thin yellow spike extending above it. The staminate (male) flowers are hidden by the thickly flowered tube that extends above them. In May through July, both male and female flowers may be seen on these brown headlets. In early fall, the fluffy seeds inside these brown flower heads open.

While traveling in the interior of BC, the ever-distinguishable cigar shaped head pops up amongst a tall stalk of ribbon like, pale gray leaves you can be sure to find a pond or marsh nearby. There are at least 8 species worldwide, 2 of which exist in Canada. These include the narrow-leaved cattail and common cattail. Clusters of stiff leaves that resemble ribbons grow from a thick, horizontal rootstock and can reach up to 3 m (or more) in height. The Cattail is a versatile plant with many uses as well as being edible. Inside the stalks of fresh shoots is tasty food that can be eaten as is, sautéed or tossed into a stir fry.

Indigenous Cultural Notes: Natives used the roots to make flour (high in protein and carbohydrates) and the fluffy wool of the head was used as diapers because of its softness and absorbency. The fluffy wool is like down and can be used as insulation in clothing, pillows, mattresses, and quilts. A common use of the leaves by the Nlaka'pamux people was to use them for matt making. The matts were then used to prepare foods such as drying berries, roots and then used as a serving dish. Some peoples also fabricated summer tents from the cattails leaves that were easy for transportation. The clear, sticky, substances found between the leaves was rubbed on the gum to help relieve toothache pain. 

Fun Fact: These “cigar-heads” are also excellent fire starter. The tight heads are often dry inside even after a heavy rain, making this essential survival tinder.

Cattail Soup


1 cup young cattail shoots (lower segments)

1 medium onion

5 button mushrooms (or Agaricus campestris)

4 cups vegetable stock

1/2 cup pre-cooked rice

2 garlic cloves

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp black pepper

salt to taste


Finely chop the cattail shoots, onions, garlic cloves and mushrooms.

In a frypan over medium low heat, sauté cattail shoots in a liberal amount of butter. Sauté about 10 to 15 minutes until they are softened. If needed, add in a little bit more butter, then continue sauteing with the onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Sauté until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Place the vegetable stock into a large saucepan. Heat to boiling then reduce heat to low. Add in the sauteed vegetables and spices, stir well. Let simmer 20 minutes then add in the cooked rice. Simmer 5 minutes more, then serve.

Medicinal plant information is for historical information only. Gold Country Communities Society is not encouraging harvesting of native plants for food or medicine.  


Researched and written by Brandy Cooper-Chardon


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