The Q&A Archives: Cattails in Constructed Wetland

Question: Our townhouse association has a retention pond that usually has some water and is full of cattails -- some members have complained about them. I am looking for a natural solution. Any suggestions about adding plants that compete with them, maintenance involved and/or bushes to plant around the pond? If not, then any info on the benefits of cattails would be helpful. I am gathering info to present all options to the association.

Answer: Cattails are very attractive to birds that stay for the winter. And have you seen red-winged blackbirds flocking in the cattails in the spring? They love them, and other waterfowl do, too. They're a very useful erosion control plant because their roots are excellent at soil stabiliztion. On the other hand, it's hard to have a diverse pond planting with cattails around. Unfortunately, I know of no plant that competes successfully with them. If you were to start over again, I'd suggest confining them in pots so you can diversify the plant community. I don't know if constructed ponds fall under the category of wetlands in the state's mind, but the Natural Resources Department in your state, which manages wetlands, should also be able to help you with info. In all situations of this sort, the human factor is sometimes the hardest to deal with. If you can, sort out why some of the residents don't like them, and try to find other solutions to solving that problem other than removing the cattails.

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