Equisetum (Scouring Rush) – Identification

Q: I saw what appeared to be mini-bamboo in the front of a restaurant this past weekend. The stalks looked to be about the size of a pencil, they were about 2 feet tall and closely planted together forming a kind of wall between the diners and the passers by. I want to get some of this for my house, but no one working at the restaurant knew what they were. Any ideas?

A: You have horsetail rush (scouring rush), Equisetum hymale. I have my plants corralled in a large ceramic container with no drain. I keep it watered in summer (it loves boggy soil) and it makes a nice vertical accent.

Equisetum is an ancient plant, representing a single living genus, a single family, a single order and a single class of plants. There is no other organism like it in the world. Dinosaurs likely munched on a ancestor of your plant.

It is said to be eaten by wildlife, but in my neighborhood the rabbits and squirrels leave it alone. I can’t imagine a deer being hungry enough to chew through all of the abrasive silica in the stems.

It is one of the few native plants that is invasive. It has invaded many lake- and stream-sides across the country. That said, it does make a nice addition to the landscape when confined.

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