Outdoor Challenge — Cattails

We decided that we definitely wanted to join in the Autumn Outdoor Hour Challenges, but we’ve been a bit behind in actually accomplishing this, so here is our first Autumn study from the challenges–cattails. Partly why we’re behind is that our first attempt to find cattails turned out to be in vain, but we did eventually find some. Actually, we found lots of them along roads that didn’t have a good shoulder to pull off on, but now that we’ve found some, we’ve found bunches. I guess, we just didn’t really pay attention to them before.


However, the ones that we took pictures of are a bit sentimental. A few days ago, I was able to take my kids back to the town I lived in when I was their age and there was a bunch of cattails that I always loved to look at when I was a kid. So I drove right to that spot to see if there were still cattails. Were there! They have definitely been very successful there and had multiplied considerably. So while I’m sure that these won’t be the same cattails that we’ll study throughout the year, it was fun to have my kids study cattails from the same place that I used be intrigued by them when I was a kid myself.


We read about cattails from two books: Handbook of Nature Study and Discover Nature in Water and Wetlands. I can’t remember which one taught us what, but we learned some interesting things about cattails. The part that seemed to be the most intriguing to the kids was that somebody somewhere found a hundred cattails all part of the same organism. Even though cattails produce seeds and can multiply by spreading their seeds, they also spread out rhizomes and send up new shoots from the bottom (like strawberries do).

We all enjoyed looking closely at the cattails and pulling them apart: looking at the seeds, the cross sections of the leaf and stem of the cattail. I remember when I was a kid, breaking apart the leaves just because they were so interesting on the inside; so different from any other leaves that I was familiar with. We even saved a piece to take home and look at under our microscope.

Here are our nature journal entries. (Even I did one this time. One of the things that I love about the Outdooor Hour Challenges is that I get to participate. It’s not just an assignment that I give my kids, but it’s something that we all do together and we all learn.  I have started to really enjoy keeping my own nature journal too.)

Cattail Nature Journal (By Zippy Age 9)

By Zippy (age 9)

Cattail Nature Journal (By JD Boy age 6)

By JD Boy (age 6)

Cattail Nature Journal (By Me)

By Me (age…you thought I would tell, didn’t you!!)

5 thoughts on “Outdoor Challenge — Cattails

  • October 7, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    How fun! When my youngest saw cattails for the first time (at age 3) he said "look, corn dogs!"


  • October 8, 2009 at 4:29 am

    I loved reading the story of your cattail study and as always your photos are gorgeous.

    I think you all learned a lot this week and now you know where to find some cattails.

    You really need to add your link to the cattail challenge so everyone can pop over and read your entry and see your lovely journals.

    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  • October 8, 2009 at 6:35 am

    We are behind in the challenges as well. In fact I logged on to put our cattails entry up. Your pictures are great and the kids (you) did a great job with your drawings.



  • October 8, 2009 at 8:33 am

    The photos are really beautiful.



  • October 26, 2009 at 12:50 am

    You've really been getting in lots of nature study. I have not gotten in all I've intended. Things always seem to get in the way. But the work you've done with your kids looks really neat. I'm glad you've gotten in there and done it.


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