Ironic that a fluffy tubular fauna named after a feline appendage should nearly decimate the mighty sawgrass of the Florida Everglades, but that’s just what cat tail reed has done in parts.
It all has to do with the water supply; and its inundation with phosphorus, nitrogen, and mercury.
These chemicals enter the water column as “nutrient runoff” from the agricultural sector, and afford certain plant-life with a steroid boost in growing power.
For some odd reason the not so humble cat tail reed responds especially well, and the sawgrass blades sink in horror at the sick twist of fate.
All it takes is a simple trip through Everglades Water Conservation Area 3B, where billions of tightly packed reeds shoot up from the muddy land below like so many missile silos in a cold war fever dream.
Sawgrass six to twelve feet high used to dominate the skyline. Those who traveled the region by self-propelled watercraft had to stand on their boats lest they get lost in the vast green expanse.
The razor sharp hooks of saw-grass were an evolutionary catalyst for the metaphor of growing tough skin. And now we people have to do the same as we face the realities of species loss and aberrations in the natural order.
So what is the deal with cat tail? Are they good? Are they evil? Are those furry cat tail oil booms helping to soak up nasty chemicals, or just making a greater mess from the trash we already throw down?
For now, one thing is for sure. Unlike the Florida panther, these cat tails are all over the Everglades.