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Nature Study: Horsetail or Scouring Rush

On our first Rideau Trail walk, we saw several colonies of amazing green stems in a ditch.  Each plant is, in fact, just a stem consisting of long finely ridged sections.  Each section fits into a lower one and is held in by a fringe of darker or lighter vegetation.  I remember this unique plant from the prairies of Manitoba where I grew up and it seems to be widespread in wet areas.

Well, it turns out to be a Horsetail or Scouring Rush (Equisetum hyemale), member of a family of plants that was used in herbal medicine and…get this… to scour pots and pans!  Apparently the stems are coated with abrasive silicates that make it ideal for cleaning metals, especially tin, and it was even exported from the Netherlands to England for this use.  It is still used in Japan instead of fine grit sandpaper.  This is an amazing plant, reproducing by spores, growing from rhizomes, and performing photosynthesis in its stem.  It is also frequently found in fossils.

When I eagerly shared all this information with Miss 17, she was not impressed.  Horsetail Rush is a nasty weed on the farm where she’s been working.  Herbicides don’t kill it, most likely because of the silica.

On the other hand, it is becoming a popular plant for water gardens and in flower arrangements, and can even be used as a hedge.

Horsetail or scouring rush (Equisetum hyemale) is our family’s third entry in the 100-Species Challenge.

Pictures are from Teresa’s Plants and More Store website, and are used with permission.  Information is from  Flora, Fauna, Earth, and Sky, Wikipedia, University of Illinois Plant Pallette, and the USDA.

One Comment

  1. Very nice article…I love this plant. It can be very beautiful in a border hedge,bog garden etc. Thank you for making the photos look so good here 🙂

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