Cattails grow from perennial, creeping rootstocks in swamps, marshes, shallow water, and frequently wet areas. The flat swordlike leaves are pale to grayish green and 1 inch wide. The plants grow 3 to 8 feet tall. Two types of flowers bloom from May to July. Female flowers are borne on the 8-inch brown cattails for which the plants are known. Above these are produced the light yellow spikes of male flowers.
Cattails are difficult to control because of their vigorous creeping roots. Hand-pulling is not practical because any pieces of root left behind will sprout into new plants.