Scouring rush, Puzzle plant, Horsetail
EQUISETACEAE, The horsetail family
After a nice afternoon on NW 23rd, Eireann and Michael and I went for a long walk in Forest Park. We tasted mahonia berries, miner’s lettuce, red huckleberry, thimbleberry and black berry along the way, and stopped to look at lichens and horsetails.
Horsetail is one of the oldest plants around. It doesn’t have flowers but reproduces by means of spore-bearing cones. The cells have silica in them, which discourages (to put it mildly,) animals from eating them, but makes them useful to people as an abrasive for scouring pots and utensils and polishing wood. It is just extremely tough stuff. It was the first plant to grow back after the Mt. St. Helens eruption and if you get it as a weed in your garden, god help you. People like to plant it because it looks groovy and unusual, and this species is not as unruly as some. But even so, if you must grow it, do so in a container. That’s a good way to keep it anyway, so you can make the kind of swamp-like conditions it likes. I call these puzzle plant sometimes, because my sisters and I used to take the segmented stems apart and put them back together.