I'm hoping someone here can give a name to a plant my sister and I loved
when we were little girls summering in the northern part of the lower
peninsula of Michigan.
I'm assuming it's a grass. All I remember of it is its stem --
clarification: my memory is that the plant was nothing but a bunch of
these stems. Each round stem (of maybe 1/8 - 1/4 inch diameter?) could
fairly easily be pulled apart into sections of about an inch or more (?)
in length. There were joints in each stem where the separation would
occur if you pulled. The stems were green (natch!) dark green, I think,
with bands of darker green maybe at the joints? I was 8 when we left
Michigan for the last time, and I'm now 51, so please bear that in mind
when trying to match this to a plant.
If I can find out what it is, I'd like to see if I can grow it in my
garden in Boston. It would nice to have a symbol of those happy summers.
Search at http://images.google.com for the word "Equisetum". These are
the horsetails and scouring rushes, with a prominent spore-bearing generation.
More closely allied with ferns than with true grasses, which are seed plants.
Species in Michigan are:
and hybrids between various species.
Equisetum (horsetail, snakegrass, scouring rush). It is thought to be
a survivor from the Triassic and may be the oldest living genus of
vascular plant. Careful where you plant it: it is mightily persistent
and invasive, especially in moist places.
Thanks to *everybody* who answered me! We called it snake grass when we
were kids, but I didn't realize it was the real name. I found no
commercial vendors who carried it, but several folks on eBay were
offering plants, so I put in a bid. I'm planning to put it in a new
raised bed, so I'm not as worried about its invasiveness, since I can
control spread so much easier in raised bed.
It will be lovely to have a little reminder of my happy childhood
summers here in the garden of my middle age. Thanks again to all who
helped with information.
Do yourself a favor, and put it in a pot, raised above the ground several
inches, or set on concrete. Equisetum is rhizomatous, and spreads nicely,
and regenerates from broken bits of rhizomes. If you remember a ditch
or field full of Equisetum -- well, that was probably all one plant.
It will "run" a fair distance and pop up again.
Field horsetail, for instance, has been found to run 300+ ft horizontally
and 20 ft deep. It's also toxic to a number of livestock species, including
horses, sheep and cattle (google "equisetosis"), and can inhibit growth of
Much as I think Equisetums are really cool plants*, I wouldn't give them a
chance to spread. You'll still have spores as a potential source of new
plants spreading around, but the "preferred" method for most species
seems to be vegetatively. Equisetums are difficult to control culturally or
with chemicals once established, so be watchful.
*Once you have some spores, let them get very dry, and shake some onto
paper. Look at them with a handlens, and breathe on them gently-- you
can watch the elaters --wings-- uncoil from a "deathstar" configuration
to fully spread.
Kay Lancaster email@example.com
ps: Equisetum scirpoides, a miniature species, will grow nicely as a
houseplant in a south window, if that would suffice for you.
Thanks for the helpful info. I think the inset container would work
best. Heck, this is all theoretical right now. The landscaper won't be
able to build the beds until after Labor Day. The bed I want to put the
snake grass in will be under the livingroom windows, next to the
sillcock. It won't get lots of sun, and I'm planning on that being my
"textures of green" bed, with ferns, snake grass, lilies of the valley,
and a touch of color from astilbe or the like. I could put the snake
grass container so it's mostly inset but a little raised, and cover that
fact with some strategically placed stones. Yes? I'm thinking of
running something from the sillcock (which drips anyway) to provide
ongoing moisture to the bed. Maybe some day I'll have a little tiny
pond in there. :-) That's a far-off dream.
No. Not unless you want to chance your yard (not just your bed) being a
solid stand of Equisetum in the future. Pot, raised above the soil
surface several inches, with clear airspace underneath, and monthly or
so examinations to remove any bits that want to come out and play in
larger plots of soil.
If you're a fan of the Old Star Trek... well, Equisetum does a pretty
good tribble imitation.
Sorry... it's just that it really is persistant and spreading... the
estimates around here are that a field with a start of E. arvense,
the common horsetail of the upper Midwest, will go from one plant to
a 2.5 acre solid stand in 6 years. Sigh.
I wish it weren't so... Equisetums are really wonderful plants. But
deliberately planting them is just a bit too close to feeding Tribbles.
I saw a deliberate planting during this year's Through the Garden Gate
tour of Rosedale gardens in Toronto.
I also noted that it was within a large concrete elevated planter. :)
"A liberal is a conservative who's been through treatment."
- Garrison Keillor
Maybe I can put the pot of horsetail on the inside sill of the window
right over that bed? ;-) That way there'd be *some* association. [At
this point I'm mostly joking about this. I've caved in to good sense.]
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