Great Basin Naturalist


For the last seven years, 1969 to 1976, a steady decline of cattails (Typha latifolia L.) has been observed at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, Davis County, Utah. Several parameters of Farmington Bay's environment that could cause or enhance a decline of the marshland vegetation were studied. These parameters included temperature, pH, phenols, oil and grease, heavy metals, fungus pathogens, and salt water intrusion from the Great Salt Lake. Elevated soluble salt concentrations were found to be responsible for the decline. Cattails are weakened or killed when they are exposed to soluble salt concentrations greater than 5.0 gm/liter, and there is a significant (1 percent level) negative correlation (−0.68) between soluble salt concentration and cattail height. Symptoms of elevated salt concentrations include stunted growth, leaf tip necrosis (burning), and occasional browning of an entire cattail clone. Furthermore, those salt concentrations that cause physiological stress in cattails also facilitate the growth of a decomposition fungus, Chaetophoma confluens. This fungus causes a rot consisting of irregularly scattered lesions on the surface of the rhizomes and was consistently isolated from rhizomes of declining plants.