Common Cattails (Typha latifolia) look like corn dogs on a stick most of the year. Now, in the bare winter, those Cattails that have discharged their seeds (which is most of them) look like cannon bore cleaners after a big battle:


So, why are these native plants called Cattails? It has to do with a short time in the lush summer, when a wiggly, cat-tailish male spike appears for a while atop the female corn-doggish flower cluster:


Native Americans and our original settlors not only ate most parts of this plant, they used its “down” or “fluff” for lining moccasins and papoose swaddle boards and stuffing quilts and pillows. During World War II, when kapok (a buoyant tropical fiber) became unavailable, Cattail down (also very buoyant) was used in American Navy life vests.

(Brooklin, Maine)