Sunday, May 10, 2020

Exploring Bellingham: Field Horsetail


Field Horsetail showing it's segmented sections.
Staying in Bellingham through spring has been exciting. We've had our condo for fifteen years, ever since we retired from our education careers in Los Angeles. Yet, we haven't been here for such an extended period during spring.

Our daily walks have let us watch the native plants in natural areas mature. I've photographed a few as they've developed.


Field Horsetail

I took botany in college.  I loved drawing Horsetail in my lab journal. It looked so primitive. That makes sense, it is considered a "living fossil." The genus is over 300 million years old and was prevalent in Paleozoic forests. Some varieties grew to 30 metres tall.

Horsetail emerges in spring from underground rhizomes.
Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) grows in moist spots along streams, sandy places, disturbed or open areas and shady forests. It's considered a weed when located in agricultural and landscaped areas, and it can be poisonous if grazing animals eat it in large quantities.

Their deep, interconnected rhizomes (root structure) make them difficult to eradicate.  But in natural settings, they provide a bright green, wispy ground cover.


The thick fertile stems emerge first.
The perennial underground rhizome sends up both fertile and non-fertile stems in spring.

The pale, thick fertile stems poke up first. They have a cone-like, spore-producing structure on top of a non-branching stem. Horsetails reproduce using spores, not seeds.

Non-fertile green stems emerge shortly thereafter. As they continue to grow, the fertile stems die back and disappear under the new bright green growth.


The green non-fertile stems are photosynthetic. The nutrients produced feed the underground rhizome and allow it to survive through winter.

The green non-fertile stems are taking over from the pale fertile ones.

Horsetails incorporate silica in their cell structure, more than most vascular plants.

The stem segments make it look like a horse's tail.

Around a central cavity, the stem is segmented with whorls of fleshy, needle-like leaves at each junction. This makes it look much like the structure of a horse's tail.

Stages of growth: Fertile stems, emerging non-fertile and maturing Horsetails.

Young Horsetail shoots were used in traditional Japanese and First Nation cultures. There are some applications in modern times, but caution must be taken. Do you have a favourite plant from the forest or fields? Tell us about it. -- Margy

63 comments :

  1. A good view to this extraordinary plant. Thank you for sharing.

    Stay healthy. Happy MosaicMonday

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    1. I've never had the chance to see it grow from start to finish. It's been fun and a learning experience. - Margy

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  2. ...this is an interesting historical plant, but can become nasty and invasive! I would prefer to enjoy this one from afar.

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    1. It's only evident here in natural areas and back home in BC I see it in the bush, it's natural home. Thank you for your thoughtful post today about the current state of affairs. You put my feelings into words so well. - Margy

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  3. Lovely photos!! Wishing you a grand week!
    Cathy https://abitoftheblarney.wordpress.com/

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    1. Thanks. I carry my phone on every walk so it is easy to follow the progression of plants in our neighbourhood. - Margy

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    2. My phone is my constant companion on my walks too! Thank you!

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  4. Isn’t it great when long-ago class work comes back to provide pleasure in everyday life? Thanks for sharing your knowledge of these interesting plants.... I had a vague idea about the horsetail being a primitive plant but that was about the extent of my knowledge. ...I’m so glad you’ve been able to get out for daily walks.

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    1. There are lots of tidbits of knowledge I can dredge up from the past. My parents were very good about taking me to nature presentations and on visits to museums and such. - Margy

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  5. What a fascinating plant. I've enjoyed reading about it :)

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  6. I know it as the plant that is poisonous to horses - although they seem smart enough to know that and generally stay away from it. Learned that as a kid in my 4-H club :)

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    1. I remember reading that. I had horses up until we moved north, but in Southern California I don't ever remember seeing any Horsetail other than on the back end of my horse. - Margy

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  7. Margy - what a thorough description of this plant! I didn't know it before I moved to Montana, and I thought the plants were something from a sci-fi film when I saw their sprouts my first spring! I do like them. But of course, my favorite is the Calypso Orchid! Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday, and for all your recent visits to past blog posts!

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    1. I remember reading about the beautiful Calypso Orchid on your blog. Montana must have a very different environment for you. - Margy

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  8. Hello, thanks for sharing the info on this plant. The stems look a little weird when they first come out of the ground. I think the moss and ferns and tall pine trees are my favorites while walking in a forest. I have to tell you I was flipping channels and came across the Extreme Houseboat show and I saw you and your floating cabin. What a neat surprise. Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy new week!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the Extreme Houseboat show. I was wondering if they would bring it back now with so many people watching TV. - Margy

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  9. Be safe. Happy mosaic Monday

    Muchđź’ślove

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    1. Thanks Gillena - We are staying home except for essential supply trips and our daily walks. - Margy

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  10. Replies
    1. They are pretty. Do you have them in your woods? - Margy

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  11. Interesting plant, great photos.

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  12. How nice to have so much information! I love to try to ID things we see but it sure can be a challenge. Right now we have Coral Bean blooming in the woods...a beautiful bright red! I guess that's one of my favs but I love them all!

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    1. There are some smart phone apps now that you can use. Take a picture and it will find similar images to help with the identification. - Margy

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  13. Seeing your photos brought back a memory from my childhood. I first saw this plant when I was taken out into the countryside as a child. We were in the vicinity of Jodrell Bank, a large observatory with a huge telescope. So I assumed this never seen before plant must have come from space. Thank you for bringing to mind this memory and for your detailed description.

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    1. Isn't it interesting how childhood memories can be like that? When I was young and on a field trip to the Museum of Natural History I was starting to get a cold. I've always associated the smell of sinus congestion with the "old bones" of the dinosaurs we were seeing. - Margy

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  14. Interesting foliage, most are not what I'm used to seeing. Part of what I love about blogging, getting to see people, places and things from all over the globe.
    Dawn aka Spatulas On Parade

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    1. Same for me, especially right now when it is hard to get outside to meet up with people in real life. - Margy

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  15. Ahhh, that's how you know so much, but then again I took a lot of Spanish in school and can't even order fish tacos.

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    1. I took Spanish in high school but never learned to speak it very much until I started working as a teacher in a Hispanic community. I never became fluent, but I was able to communicate with my students and their parents. - Margy

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  16. Nice to read such interesting details about much of the same foliage I see regularly on my West Coast walks. Thanks for sharing your world!

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    1. We have so many wonderful plants to see in our coastal rainforests. - Margy

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  17. Plants are getting a lot of notice these days. Hiking is one of the few things we can do.

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    1. Yes, it is a great way to exercise while keeping a safe distance from others. We can also see lots on our backyard and neighbourhood walks. - Margy

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  18. Replies
    1. It's fun to photograph and draw. Maybe I should start a nature journal again. Wish I had kept those college and high school ones. - Margy

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  19. Interesting to know. Thanks for sharing.
    Have a nice Tuesday!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment this week. - Margy

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  20. nice shots. I think we call them Foxtails in Swedish. :)

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    1. We have a grass with spiky seed heads that are commonly called Foxtails. They disperse by sticking in clothing and animal fur. - Margy

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  21. That's interesting, I think we have them in Oklahoma. During my pipeline construction days, scouting routes across ditches and creeks I learned not to grab onto them as I climbed up as they would give way.

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    1. I would guess that's probably because they don't have their own individual root structure. - Margy

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  22. They have so many names... in South-West Germany we call them "cat tail"!
    Interesting post!

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    1. Funny how each area has different common name for plants. Where I live cattails are a large marsh plant with spear shaped leaves and seed heads the shape of hotdogs. - Margy

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  23. How interesting to learn about the flora in your corner of the world!

    Happy Wednesday!

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed learning more about my part of the world. - Margy

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  24. Fascinating post. I felt like I just read a really good school book about Horsetails. I've never seen such plant. Thank you for sharing and thank you for stopping by my blog.

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  25. Nature is certainly amazing! Thanks for the photos and information!

    Your corner is beautiful this week! Thanks for sharing it at the 'My Corner of the World' link up.

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    1. It sure is. I am always watching the weed patches on our walks. Without any gardening at our shopping mall next door Mother Nature is taking over. - Margy

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  26. Very informative. Thank you.

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  27. What an interesting post!! I bet that course on Change theory was interesting!! Thanks so much for stopping by!!
    Hugs,
    Deb

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    1. Yes it was. It was part of my educational doctorate program. The professor was very knowledgeable and able to teach a complicated concept. As the culmination to the course, we had to offer a future concept for schools and how we would support the change. - Margy

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  28. In Romania, too, it is also called the ponytail. It is used in natural medicine in the form of tea or baths to combat rheumatism. Tea is also good for the kidneys.
    Your post is interesting, Margy, thank you!

    Have a good day!

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    1. That makes sense, ponies are the same physical makeup as horses. I find it fun to learn the common names used for plants around the world. - Margy

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  29. Horsetail is new to me. Interesting plant.

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    1. We never had it in Southern California near the coast. It likes cooler and moist climates. - Margy

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  30. Very interesting information about this plant. In this period I use it for tea. Very good for bones and kidneys, but you know better. You are the expert.
    Thank you for this post, Margy!
    All the best in your world! Happy Today!

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    1. When I was writing the post I came across several uses, and some commercial offerings. I did mention the indigenous uses, but didn't want to include information for human consumption since I have never used it. - Margy

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Thanks for stopping by. Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. - Margy