Cattails, the Survival Supermarket

It’s not unusual to find plants that offer more than one benefit for survival, but few come close to the versatility of the cattail.  Cattails can be used to start fire, build shelter, manufacture tools, and for nutritious food.  They are widely distributed, growing in almost any environment that water can be found.  Coming across a clump of cattails while struggling for survival is like finding a supermarket in the wilderness.


Fire Starting

When the heads of cat tail have turned brown they will be filled with a light fluffy material that is a perfect tinder.  If the head is still intact, the tinder is likely to be dry even if the weather has been wet.  The material is fine enough that it can ignite from just a spark.


While still green the plant is easy to weave together to provide better insulation from the wind and in layers be used as singles to keep out the rain.  Likewise, cordage can be manufactured from the leaves.

Food and Medicine

After you have taken care of your shelter and fire you can use the left over for food and medicine.  The yet unused root of the plant can be eaten.  It can be cooked, but it is also eatable raw when the outside is peeled off.  If the pollen is available it can be added to the water when boiling the root to thicken it like a stew.  The root can also be chewed into a spit poultice to be used to treat insect bites, scrapes, bruises, and burns.


Since cattails only grow near water, when you see cattails in the wilderness you can know that your greatest needs are now within your reach.  Shelter, fire, water, and food, are all available to you if you have cattails.

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