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238. Horsetail

Equisetum hyemale aka Scouring Rush or Horsetail

These living fossils have been around for the past 300 million years, a part of the Carboniferous or Coal Age, and are the last living example of “Sphenophytes” (plants having straight stems, with branches and leaves arranged in regular whorls). “Scouring Rush” gets its name from times past when it was used for scrubbing pans and polishing all sorts of objects, because its ribbed and furrowed stem cells have a high percentage of silica and feel abrasive to the touch. The Equisetum species are in the family, Equisetaceae, which is in the plant division, Pteridophyta. This means that Equisetum species are closely related to ferns, and their reproductive spores are dispersed by the winds. The popular and widely used name “Horsetail” comes from the Latin words equus (horse) and seta (bristle), from the peculiar bristly appearance of the jointed stems of the plants.

The plant bears no leaves, and looks almost like a pot of green bamboo stakes that florists use to support unusually tall plants. The stems are jointed and they come apart at each joint - usually with a loud popping sound. Where the tips (strobilis) are missing, the stems end in a circular depression with brown edges. It is not uncommon to see straw-brown dead tips on top of a healthy green stem. This is probably a safety valve for drought conditions. When water is more plentiful, the plant usually sends out shoots from the top edge of the remaining stem. These little spikes adhere to the stem as though they were welded there. The hyemale species has an insatiable desire to keep its roots very wet. It cannot be over-watered, and is happy to sit in large puddles - in fact, it thrives profusely in watery conditions. Its close relative Equisetum arvense has very little thirst, and can grow and thrive on dry, hard-packed soils.

Thanks Sadhya [photoblog.com] for the help on the ID

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    There are 30 comments, add yours!

    • # Jacki

      Interesting, we have something that looks just like that here on my beach but we call it 'snake grass', now I will have to look more closely.

      2010.08.28 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Moira

      Very interesting .
      It reminded me of a flourescent bracelet my daughter has it pop closes too.

      2010.08.26 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Redro

      Very interesting plant; I heard the name but I've just realized that I never knew how it looks. Fascinating construction. Nature always leaves me in awe.

      2010.08.26 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Tripp

      Very informative post and great photos..I like that luminosity too and the overhead perspective.

      2010.08.26 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Jon Laysell

      Very interesting post Ricky, I don't remember seeing these before. How did you light these, they look as if they're glowing.

      2010.08.26 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Ray

      Well that's a horse tail of a different color! Very informative post. And such a cool looking plant!

      2010.08.26 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Sandra Vermeulen

      [i]Sorry, I have to adjust you!!
      I saw many horses, I saw many tails of the many horses ... sorry Ricky, but this is no horsetail!! I'm sure it is not!![/i] LOL

      Great post, my friend!!

      2010.08.26 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Sadhya Rippon

      I know this one very well as it is a real pest in my vegetable garden. Its a survivor, and how ever many times I dig it up and weed it out, it always pops up again.

      2010.08.26 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Brenda Nelson

      What absolutely COOL shots! Love your change in focus from one shot to the other - great clarity and color, too!

      2010.08.26 Edited Reply Cancel