Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spilt Cattail

I found this unusual cattail (Typha sp.) at Westwood Hills Nature Center.  There are a lot of cattails at Westwood, and I occasionally find one that has been split into two or more spikes.  I'm not sure how common this occurs, or what causes it.  I've never seen it anywhere else, but I have found a few pictures online from other locations.  I haven't found an explanation for why a cattail would grow in this way.  One opinion I came across speculated that it might have been caused by hail damage, but I don't recall any hail from midsummer when the cattail's were "flowering" (cattails are technically a flower, even though they don't resemble our typical image of a flower with colorful petal and such).  I wonder if an insect, or some other small organism feeding on the cattail flower causes the split.  I'm curious to know if you have ever observed this phenomenon, and what you think the causes might be.