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Horsetail

April 30, 2010
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It’s funny how this topic seems to be popping up everywhere recently – at Plants are the Strangest People and at two forums I read, and I’ve got the dim feeling I’m forgetting something.

So if all the cool kids are doing it, I’m doing it too, and give you pictures of strobili, which are the spore-carrying thingies of Horsetail (Equisetum). And I’m even cooler than most, because I’ve got two different kinds, hah.

That’s an ordinary infertile stem, probably of Equisetum arvense, on the left (do you call them “fronds” in English, like we do in German?).

Close-up of the E. arvense strobilus

In the middle is the strobilus of Equisetum arvense, the Field or Common Horsetail, which is the most common species round here, and an evil weed, apparently (luckily, I never had it in any of my gardens).

And on the right… well. Some monstrously big strobilus – some research* suggests it’s probably Equisetum telmateia, the Great or Northern Giant Horsetail.

I picked all these on the railway embankment on the way home from work, and took the pictures on the train. I wonder what the conductor thought…

I’ll keep an eye on that embankment, to see if the big strobili really turn out to belong to E. telmateia. If they do, I will have learned a new plant, and it seems to be a neat-looking plant, too, with a neat-sounding name. I like the word ‘telmateia‘.

Close-up of the E. telmateia (?) strobilus

Mr Subjunctive at Plants are the Strangest People wrote that when he first saw it, he thought of a mushroom – it occurs to me that this is actually a reasonable comparison, not just in appearance – both mushrooms and strobili are spore-bearing … thingies. (I had a more educated-sounding word I wanted to use here, but I worked almost ten hours today, and my brain is not feeling too well.)

I wonder what I’d have thought if I hadn’t already known what they were. I didn’t actually ever notice the strobili before (probably because this is the first year I regularly pass places where horsetails grow), but I learned about them in Botany at horticultural vocational school (or actually I didn’t, because we were really behind in that class, and never covered all the topics, so I learned about them from another apprentice’s notes… either way, seeing them I remembered a page of botany notes with a sketch of horsetails).

Close-up of the stems. Left: Equisetum arvense, right: Equisetum telmateia (?)

But apart from that, and the fact that they spread by spores and evil rhizomes and are a really old group of plants, I don’t know much about horsetails. One of my books on organic gardening says a tea made for them helps against fungal diseases (I think it had something to do with the silicic acid they contain, but I can’t be bothered to look it up now), and my Botany teacher might even have told us about that too, so I guess  I’ll go out and gather some now that the sterile stems are coming up, and start spraying my mildewy Cissus antarctica.As soon as I’m back from tomorrow’s plant market, for which I guess I should start preparing now. By catching some sleep.

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*Which I shouldn’t be doing, because I should be in bed.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2010 22:41

    I don’t know if I call them “fronds” or not; it’s never come up in regular conversation, and I see from going back to the PATSP post about it that I wrote almost 400 words on the topic without ever talking about them. “Stems” is as close as I got.

    Now, of course, I’ll never be able to talk about them without excruciating self-consciousness. Unless the person I’m talking to refers to them first, I guess.

  2. May 1, 2010 02:13

    Oh my god I love Equisetum. I was just at a floral exhibition talking about how much I love it. This post makes me happy.

  3. May 1, 2010 02:29

    Would you mind if I linked to your site in my blogroll?

    • May 1, 2010 06:41

      Not at all! I was actually thinking of adding yours, too, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

  4. May 3, 2010 07:37

    Wow! Along with growing vegetables, I have some other plants in my garden, Horsetail is one of them. But I’m really envy of those E. telmateia. I wish I could have those! They look gorgeous.

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