There is something about the sight of cattails. The soft, buoyant “hotdogs on a stick” remind me of my childhood in northern Michigan. These spongy plants were used for many make-believe moments with my siblings that typically involved roasting hotdogs over a fire. Even the simple joy of the buttery fur between my fingertips made a lazy autumn afternoon seem magical.
Since those days, I have learned about all the marvelous uses of the cattail. The dense flower provided bedding comfort for Native Americans and pioneers, and helped ignite fires for cooking and warmth. During World War II, the flower was used to stuff life vests. Experts at the Outdoor Channel say we can forage the “shoots, flowers and pollen” for eating and enjoy similar tastes to “corn and cucumber.” So, the charming cattail does not taste like a hotdog after all.
On my weekly autumn hikes, I will continue to keep my eye out for cattails. And, as the frosty breath of winter settles in, the frozen stalks amid the wetlands will provide a welcome reminder of home.