“…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 aggressive, 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.
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.
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 ridged 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
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.
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
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.
Do you grow any unusual native plants? What is your favorite unusual plant?
The latest issue of the on-line magazine, Rural, is out. It is aptly named, Winter Love. 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.
In A Vase On Monday
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.
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.
I am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.
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