Cattails Survival Uses

Surprisingly enough, cattails can be a great survival resource. Learn how to use cattails for survival with this article.

Cattails: Common Plant To A Terrific Survival Resource

It doesn’t matter if you are caught in the wild or even in the city; there is one plant, if you can find it, it will provide you with an entire pantry’s worth of supplies. It is the simple cattail. It is said, cattails are the supermarket of the wild. Archeologists have actually found samples of this plant on ancient grinding stones dating back nearly 30,000 years. The following are parts of the cattail and its uses:

Cattail Survival Uses

This infographic is courtesy of

Cattail Seed Heads

Cattail Seed Heads | Cattails Survival Uses
image via USFWS Moutain-Prairie

This brown cigar-like shape contains thousands of seeds that will later burst open to be dispersed by the wind. It is also called corndog grass or punk by some people.

1. Tinder

Tinder | Cattails Survival Uses
image via

When ripe, the seed hairs are dry and become highly combustible to be used as tinder. The native Americans were known to have used this abundant material to start fires.

2. Pillows

Pillows | Cattails Survival Uses
image via

The seed hairs are soft and fluffy if you can gather enough of them you can actually stuff them in pillows. If you can manage to get more than enough some are known to have made a mattress out of it.

3. Torches

Torches | Cattails Survival Uses
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Soak up the cattail in oil or animal fat to make this torch burn much longer. It can provide you with a maximum of 6 hours of light or heat if soaked up right.

4. Fire Transportation

Fire Transportation | Cattails Survival Uses
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If you just wish to light a certain area or something on fire, you can use a cattail as a form of transporting fire from one thing or area to the other.

5. Insulation

Insulation | Cattails Survival Uses
image via

These fluffy seeds were also used to line the mocassins and clothing of early Indians. It was even known to have been used for beddings, headgear, diapers and cushions for cradleboards.

Cattail Leaves & Stalks

Cattail Leaves & Stalks | Cattails Survival Uses
image via Kinsey Barnard

The leaves and stalks are known to grow to a maximum of 3 meters in length. And having flat and thick leaves these parts had a lot of uses for those who were trying to survive in the wild.

1. Arrow Shafts

Arrow Shafts | Cattails Survival Uses
image via Triballica

Considering the stalks grow to 3 meters long and are more often straight, there is very little “straightening out” to be done. Just remove any excess leaves and unneeded parts then dry it out under the sun. They will soon turn brown and become sturdy enough to be used as arrows. Plus, there are a lot of them out there so you don’t have to worry about running out of arrows.

2. Cordage

Cordage | Cattails Survival Uses
image via davkrat

The leaves are broad and thick which makes them sturdy cordage material. With 12 to 16 leaves per plant, you will not worry about running out of rope for survival uses.

3. Baskets

Baskets | Cattails Survival Uses
image via

Other than cordage, you can also use them for making baskets. With a little bit of patience and know-how, you can make different kinds of baskets with the leaves after you let them dry up.

4. Bedding

Bedding | Cattails Survival Uses
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As previously mentioned, the soft fluffy parts of the cattail can be made into beddings. You just have to collect more than enough to make one.

5. Spindle

Hand Drills | Cattails Survival Uses
image via Lake

With the right material such as popular fireboard and the cattail stalk as a spindle, you can actually make an ember by spinning the stalk on the board. With the right friction pressure and speed, you can start a fire with it.

6. Hats

Hats | Cattails Survival Uses
image via

You can make hats with the leaves when freshly harvested. It becomes sturdier as the leaves dry up. You will have to come up with the proper weaving skill set to accomplish, though.

7. Mats

Mats | Cattails Survival Uses
image via fletchereh

With long leaves that reach up to 10 to 20 mm wide and 3 meters in length, plus, the cross section coming in a D-shaped, this makes it a desirable material for making a mat.

8. Shelters

Shelters | Cattails Survival Uses
image via

One Boy Scout motto is “You name it and we’ll make it from cattails!” Somehow you can even make a teepee-like shelter using the freshly uprooted cattail plants.

Cattail Roots

Cattail Roots | Cattails Survival Uses
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Don’t be surprised but the roots, like most of the parts of the plant, are edible. These can produce food material such as the following:

1. Flour

Flour | Cattails Survival Uses
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You can grind out flour out of the roots and use it to thicken your stew or soup. Just dry out the roots thoroughly and you can grind them out using a round rock.

2. Direct Food Source

Food Source | Cattails Survival Uses
image via FreedomoftheHills

Wash and clean the roots. Then cut them into thin slices before frying them in a pan. Fry until they turn brown in color. They give a similar taste to potatoes, if you ask me.

Watch this video on the many uses of cattail posted by Birch Point Outdoors:

So many people walk right past a stand of cattails, never even giving them a thought. But, with a little know-how, it can easily save your life. Here are 5 local edible plants and how to identify them just in case you’re still in search of plants like cattails. There are also ways on how to prepare food kits for survival you might want to learn to make. Another plus factor on cattails is you can find them all over the United States. So if you’re ever caught outside, for whatever reason, once you find a marsh or pond with cattails, you have just about all you need to survive.

Do you have any more uses for cattails you think we missed? Please don’t hesitate to add them in the comments below!

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The contents of this article are for informational purposes only. Please read ourfull disclaimer.

Editor’s Note – This post was originally published in January 2016 and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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