Simply The Best Natives-Horsetail Rush

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“…no matter how complex or affluent, human societies are nothing but subsystems of the biosphere, the Earth’s thin veneer of life, which is ultimately run by bacteria, fungi and green plants.”  ~Vaclav Smil

 

 

Just when I think I have profiled all the native plants in my garden, I run across one that I had forgotten.  And that is precisely what happened with this unusual plant.  Equisetum hyemale, (commonly known as horsetail rush, horsetail reed, rough horsetail, scouring rush, scouringrush horsetail) is a perennial herb in the Horsetail Family (Equisetaceae). 

It is a native plant throughout North America, Europe, and northern Asia.  But in South Africa it is horsetail posteraggressive, and known as snake grass.  The subspecies, Equisetum hyemale affine is native to North America, and the plant I grow.  They are closely related to Ferns, and are like ferns in their function.  But as you can see in the pictures they do not look anything like a fern.

This plant is said to date back to over 300 million years ago, when they were the size of trees.  Now you can find them in moist, sandy habitats in wetlands, along streams, moist forests, pond shores, marshes and swamps.

When we built the pond, I wanted to plant the area around it with plants that could be found near a pond.  I came across this plant while perusing the unusual plants online at Big Dipper Farms in Washington State (they closed the nursery in 2012).  So I planted one or two or three near the waterfall side of the pond.  And they quickly filled in.  Joining them are Common Milkweed which blew into my garden and landed near the pond too.

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As I profile this wonderful native plant, I am linking in with Gail@Clay and Limestone for her Wildflower Wednesday meme, and Diana@Elephant’s Eye at False Bay for her Dozen for Diana monthly meme. And I am joining forces once again this year with a local native plant nursery, Amanda’s Garden, to buy native plants for my garden.  The owner, Ellen Folts, specializes in woodland, prairie and wetland native perennials.  Check out their Spring 2016 catalog.

 

 

 

Growing Conditions

The unique appearance of this plant is what makes it so sought after.  The hollow, green stalks are jointed with tiny leaves joined together and forming a blackish band around each joint.  Each stem feels DSCN9628ridged and rough because of the silica in the plant.  It can grow up to 3 feet tall in zones 3-11, and has few pest or disease problems.

It prefers full sun and moist conditions, but will tolerate wet, poorly drained areas.  It is especially happy in sandy soil or muck.  Where I have it growing, is where we built up the bank of the pond with sandy soil.  Horsetail will tolerate drier conditions and a variety of soils as well as part sun.  

And in the worst conditions, this plant will be super aggressive, although I have found Obedient plant to be more aggressive in my garden.  And because of its aggressive nature, many will suggest that you grow this plant in a confined area or in pots without holes.  

 Like ferns, this plant reproduces by spores.  The end of fertile stems have a spore covered cone.  The cones release spores from late spring to mid-summer, and then they wither away.  It can also be propagated by root divisions.

Horsetail appears evergreen in warmer climates, and deciduous in colder winters.  Although mine tends to remain erect, and the color fades to pale green.  Once it warms up, the plant is invigorated and seems to thaw to grow again.

 

 

 

Benefits to Wildlife 

DSCN0454If you grow this plant near water, dragonflies love landing on it.

Horsetail Rush provides great cover for wetland birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.  I know the snakes, voles and frogs hang out near our Horsetail.

Some beetles, weevils and sawflies feed on this plant.  Most mammals do not feed on it because of the coarse fibers and silica deposits in the stems.

 

 

 

Uses DSCN0269

Horsetail has some homeopathic uses still today.

This plant is used as an ornamental plant in contained garden beds, planters, and containers. Also grows well in bogs, near ponds and water gardens (in submerged containers).  But again, be forewarned as it can be aggressive.  But I find it easy to pull out unwanted plants.

It is also a popular plant in Modern and Japanese style gardens.  

I allow a dense stand of these to grow near the pond to keep out weeds.

 

 

 

Folklore and Tales 

DSCN8432Some Native Americans boiled the stalks of this plant to produce a drink used to treat several ailments.

Some of the uses were for horse medicine, kidney problems, urinary aid, laxative, disinfectant, analgesic, eye issues, gynecological aid, skin sores, back aches, stimulants and for ceremonial cleansing.

In Japan, Equisetum hyemale is boiled and dried and used as a polishing material.

The common name, scouring rush, is said to originate with early pioneers in America who used its silica rush stems to “scour” or clean pots, pans and floors.  Present day Boy Scouts have also been known to use it.

 

 

 

 

horsetail collage

Do you grow any unusual native plants?  What is your favorite unusual plant?

 

 

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The latest issue of the on-line magazine, Rural, is out.  It is aptly named, Winter Love. rural winterlove An except of my poem, Blanket of Cotton, and a short essay, In Winter Play In The Garden, are included in this amazing publication.  I am honored to be included with so many creative writers and photographers.

The magazine is the creation of Jen@ The Light Laughed.  I hope you will check out the latest issue of this free online magazine.  You can sign up to read the new issue of Rural here.

 

 

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In A Vase On Monday  

 


DSCN1345Because the weather was so warm for so long into winter, the Horsetail was still useful for a vase.  I picked some a few weeks ago as the snow was flying in anticipation of this post.

 

 

 

horsetail vase collage

You can see the tall stems don’t grow straight many times which is why I love this plant in a vase; love the way they twist and curve.  And they dry perfectly.  I added more dried plant material, seed heads from Helianthus maximiliani, or Maximilian sunflower, found growing along the fence near the veg garden.  One of the best parts of this vase is it needs no water.

I am joining in with a few memes this week as I prepare this vase:  Cathy@Rambling in the Garden for her wonderful meme, In a Vase on Monday, and Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday.

 

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Next up on the blog:  

Monday brings some highlights from the January garden.

I am linking in with Michelle for her Nature Notes meme at her blog, Rambling Woods.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Monday. 

 

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I am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2016.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only. 

99 comments

  1. Eileen says:

    Hello, this is a pretty plant. It would look great next to our pond. I love to look for the dragonflies. Your vase and arrangement look lovely. Great post and info. Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

  2. Karin/Southern Meadows says:

    I’m thinking this may be a good plant along the creek we are clearing. My concern is it may like it too much. I’m going to check what our native plant society says about it in our area. Thanks so much for the information. It looks lovely in the vase too!

  3. Alexa T says:

    So lovely to live at the conjunction of a habitat with a wild area… Indeed, there are so many things to observe; in the city is pretty difficult for such activity, even if it could exist some local parks arranged to maintain some flora and fauna elements…
    Your garden is amazing! (Regarding … I own only indoors plants, some for many years…like the favourite one, an old, ornamental red hibiscus, being green all over the year!)
    Have a great week ahead and a happy monday!

    • Donna says:

      Oh an indoor garden of plants is wonderful especially the hibiscus. I have always wanted a pond so creating that habitat was wonderful especially because we have a wild area behind us. It keeps the critters coming into the garden!

    • Donna says:

      Indeed. I have several vases that need no water scattered around the house now. With a milder winter it was easy to get out and get to those dried plants.

  4. Island Threads says:

    interesting Donna, so is this the same horsetails you have said infest some of your flower beds or a different one? I notice you say you bought it,
    the one I have was here and as the lewisa rock is one of the oldest rocks, the horsetails have probably been here 2 – 3 million years, mine is not evergreen it only shows for about 3 months in summer, it is also very fern like as the stem is surrounded by thin thread like leaves which stick out like bristles on a chimney brush, it has been used in Europe as a scourer for many hundreds of years so the early settlers were perhaps please to see it,
    ferns are also among the earliest plants, I was amazed when you said it used to be the size of a tree but then thought of tree ferns, interesting how plants change and adapt, better than us humans do, Frances

    • Donna says:

      This is a native horsetail that grows 3 feet high and does not resemble the invasive smaller horsetail plant that comes back in spring and summer. I believe that is the same one you have Frances. The invasive non-native one resembles yours with the bristly foliage.

      This one is tall and thin and does not get the bushy appearance. Rather it stays as a tall thin reed only as you can see in the pictures. I wish I had some pictures of the weedy smaller horsetail to compare with. They say horsetail millions of years ago were the size of trees. I bet they were.

  5. Cathy says:

    It does indeed look lovely in a vase with those curved stems and you have complemented it beautifully with the dried bits and pieces – well done for anticipating the snowy Monday and having material ready. The UK’s native horsetail Equisetum arvense is invasive and very difficult to eradicate – but pretty in a similarly primitive way. Thanks for sharing, Donna

    • Donna says:

      Cathy, I also have Equisetum arvense and it is the most invasive plant here….virtually impossible to get rid of without mega doses of poison. I much prefer my native variety that resembles a reed. It seems to stay contained, and is so unusual. Glad you enjoyed the vase.

  6. Starr White says:

    Hi Donna! I always enjoy your posts on native plants, and this one in particular as I have been considering purchasing this plant on-line. Thanks to you I have much more helpful information about it as well as the exact one to look for. Thank you so much for all the hard work and research you put into your very helpful posts!!!

  7. helmiriitta10 says:

    This snake grass is imported to flower shops in Finland, via Holland, I do not know where it is grown. When I worked as a florist it was wonderful in binding graphic decorative fantasy bouquets as it can be bended in the joints. Very good material indeed!

    Have a lovely week!

    • Donna says:

      I did not know that so thank you for that bit of fascinating info about this plant. I will have to try using it as such when my flowers start growing again!

    • Donna says:

      Good for you as it is a wonderful plant if you are mindful where you plant it….it will make a wonderful stand of flowers and the hummingbirds will reward you!

  8. Kris P says:

    I’ve always liked the look of horsetail rush and would love to use it in my own garden if only it didn’t need so much water. I’m glad you gathered the material in advance, Donna. I can only imagine what conditions must be in your area right now.

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Kris. Actually we did not get the blizzard. We had our own storm midweek…2 ft, but that was a one day thing and we are used to it so we just plow out and move on. The poor folks who got the blizzard are not used to it and do not have the equipment….my sister is one in Virginia. She is used to snow after living here, but they do not have enough plows so they are stuck at home still. It is a mess there.

  9. Judith@Lavender Cottage says:

    I had horsetail in a garden beside our pond too Donna but I didn’t find it that attractive and it did like to travel. White baneberry might be my most unusual native and I have to admit, the doll’s eyes berries are pretty neat.

  10. Chloris says:

    What an unusual idea for a vase. Your horsetail makes a very elegant arrangement. Near me, here in Suffolk there is a man who has the National Collection of Equisetum. I have to say I couldn’ t fall in love with horsetails enough to fill my garden with them and some of them are terrifyingly invasive. But as a pondside feature they are very attractive.

  11. Amelia Grant says:

    I like the arrangement, it is very textural and has nice contrasting elements. Being from the Deep South, I am terrified of Equisetum.

  12. Helene says:

    I like your vase this time Donna – well I always like your vases, but this time I really like it:-)
    The horsetail is an unusual compliment but I can think of so many different plants it would go well together with. Here in Britain the definition of ‘native plants’ is: plants that were here before the last ice age – that’s around 10,000 years ago. A lot has changed in the world of British horticulture since then, especially the last 2,000 years (since Roman time) so what we here have had for a very, very long time is still not ‘native’ plants per se. I think therefore gardeners in Britain are a bit less into this thing about native or not. There was a large study about native vs non-native plants a couple of years ago here in Britain and one of the findings was:

    “Places that had increasing numbers of non-native species also had an increasing number of native species – there was a positive correlation. Where there were places that were good for plant diversity, it was good for both native and non-native species.”

    To be honest I have no idea which plants in my garden that are native and which were introduced to Britain less than 10,000 years ago, I suppose I can exclude the hybrids with funny names but apart from them I just wouldn’t know 🙂

    • Donna says:

      Glad you enjoyed the post Helene! That is daunting trying to identify natives there….I am sure the natives here changed as well over the many different periods of occupation.

  13. Diana Studer says:

    I must confess that I love horsetail!
    But instead I grow a restio Elegia capensis, that grows tall and straight with whorls of feathery leaves. My plant is waiting impatiently to escape its pot

  14. Susie says:

    Donna, your Equisetum are lovely. I first learned of this plant when my daughter was getting married and the florist recommended it to achieve a modern look my daughter was seeking. I’d like to grow it but already have the obedient plant you mentioned! Have a great week.

  15. Cath says:

    Your vase is lovely, even better since it’s winter. Here in New Zealand there is a strong interest in planting natives as well. Our neighbours planted a native rush which has taken over their stream, and is good for some insects and fish no doubt, but not the effect they had planned.

  16. Hannah says:

    The Horsetail rushes showed up in our drainfleld and under trees, in paths, and generally is too invasive there, Donna. It would be nice to have it on the bank of a pond where it would fit in with the land use. I try to dry some early for tea, for the silica. I appreciate the evergreen Oregon Holly Grape plants and Salal that grows in the shady areas of my yard. The Horsetail looks pretty in a vase, and the seed heads of the Maxmillian sunflower are interesting, I got seed to grow it this year.

    • Donna says:

      How interesting to hear them growing in those areas Hannah. I have a weedy invasive smaller horsetail too, but this one thankfully is not invasive. You are lucky to have the native Oregon Holly Grape….a wonderful native. It does grow well here but is not native to NY. Enjoy your Maxmillian sunflower. I adore seeing it bloom here in late summer and fall.

  17. Cathy says:

    The vase is really lovely – the fresh green of the stems stands out well. Good that it doesn’t need water – I forgot to top up some tulips bought from the supermarket and they were very sad this morning – hopefully I saved them just in time! Horsetail is considered one of the worst weeds in the UK, but there are probably many different types dotted around the world.

  18. Sherry says:

    Great post. I loved the information and photos. And the fabulous mosaic. Made it much nicer! Is this the plant that is really invasive? Doesn’t grow just around water. Can be grown in beds for cover horizontal and vertical!
    I’ve seen something similar or the same plant. I know it was horse something.
    Anyway. Really interesting post. Thanks for coming by my mosaic as well.
    I started visiting last night then my internet went down so was behind. You beat me to visiting! Nice to party together. I think next week I’m going to do a collection trees on our property through the seasons. I think it’ll be fun!

    • Donna says:

      This is a US native tall stalk-like plant that can be aggressive if planted. Now there is a non-native horsetail that is an invasive weed that is much shorter and it looks like a bushy fern-like plant. They are related. Glad you enjoyed the post. I look forward to your next MM post.

  19. Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern says:

    Donna I weed this daily in the summers at TI Park where I work, I think. Does it also have a ferny leaf counterpart? I’ve always called it horsetail and well, if I let it go it would be quite a ground cover. I had some of this in a pot in my little water container and you know, I think I left it on the back steps in my hurry to get out of town. I hope it survives as I was going to plant it near my pond that (dammit) I will someday dig. Love the thought of Dragonfly perches!

    • Donna says:

      Kathy the ferny horsetail you describe is an invasive non-native weed so don’t plant it or you will have only horsetail for a garden. It is what you are weeding at TI. I also have it and it is not a groundcover I want and it cannot be killed without great amounts of poison.

      The horsetail I am showing here is a tall thin plant that only has these reeds. It is 2-3 feet tall and no ferny part. It is native and wonderful near a pond but also aggressive. If you want one or 2 to plant I would be happy to send them to you to plant in a pot.

  20. Teresa Sjönberg says:

    Hi Donna! Thank you for visiting! What a lovely plant that Horsetail Rush is. I didnt know that you can use it for polishing. I just read in Finnish page that you can polish your fingernails with it too. I think it’s quite popular in Japanese Gardens.

  21. Debby Ray says:

    Well, I don’t even pretend to know a lot about plants but when I find something interesting and want to know about it, i am so thankful for google! I have come across many unusual plants and had no clue about them. I don’t really try to grow too much in the ground here. We have nothing but red clay and it’s very hard to plant or grow much of anything. I am considering the idea of raised bed for a summer garden…we’ll see 🙂
    Milkweed is a favorite of mine to photograph! I also love the arrangement in your vase!

  22. Pondside says:

    The Horsetail is pretty in a floral arrangement. I’m afraid that if I planted it my entire neighbourhood would be out in force to protest. It is very invasive up here and nearly impossible to eradicate once it has taken hold.

  23. Jennifer@threedogsinagarden says:

    Interesting to know that Equisetum hyemale has a history dating back 300 million years. I never would have guessed they were related to ferns. Hard also to imagine that in history they were the size of trees. Nature has an amazing ability to adapt to changing conditions.

  24. Sallie (FullTime-Life) says:

    I remember our kids and grandkids playing with wild horsetail when we were on camping trips (in Oregon) — it comes easily apart at the joints as I’m sure you know. They made “pipes” and ‘flutes’ and stuff like that. I think kids were more easily amused back in those days. Today’s camping kids (if there even are any) would probably have their phones and ipads going full blast. Sadly.

  25. Andrea Ostapovitch says:

    That IS a very interesting plant and it looks so fabulous in a vase! I don’t mind a little aggressiveness in my perennials, I just have plants I can create new gardens with and for free, which is addictive fun.

  26. Beth @ PlantPostings says:

    A nice addition to your Monday vase! I remember playing with these horsetails as a child, when we lived near a river. They grew naturally in the woods, and we would pick them, take them apart, and put them back together like Legos. I’ve seen them near wetlands during hikes, too. They seem like an appropriate addition to your pond area.

  27. debsgarden says:

    The horsetail makes a striking arrangement in your vase. I have seen horsetail for sale and admired it a lot. I don’t have pond, but I wonder if it would grow a pot?

  28. Donna says:

    Not a plant I would welcome, even the native variety. It is a bit too aggressisive from what I have seen. I know it loves a pond side habitat, but have seen it get out of control. You must be having much better luck with this plant.

    • Donna says:

      Yes I have not had issues with it being too aggressive. I think the key is that it is not in mucky soil. It prefers the muck and wet so with a bit of good, drier soil it seems controlled.

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