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Equisetum hyemale

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Kemper Code:  C670

Common Name: winter scouring rush
Zone: 4 to 9
Plant Type: Rush or Sedge
Family: Equisetaceae
Missouri Native: Yes
Native Range: Eurasia, North America
Height: 2 to 4 feet
Spread: 1 to 6 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering  
Bloom Color: Non-flowering
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium


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Plant Culture and Characteristics

Sources for this plant

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  Uses:       Wildlife:   Flowers:   Leaves:   Fruit:
Hedge Suitable as annual Attracts birds Has showy flowers Leaves colorful Has showy fruit
Shade tree Culinary herb Attracts Has fragrant flowers Leaves fragrant Fruit edible
Street tree Vegetable   hummingbirds Flowers not showy Good fall color   Other:
Flowering tree Water garden plant Attracts Good cut flower Evergreen Winter interest
Gr. cover (<1') Will naturalize   butterflies Good dried flower     Thorns or spines

General Culture:

Best grown in medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Tolerates an extremely wide range of soils, however. Will grow in up to 4 of standing water. Spreads to form large colonies in the wild. Homeowners are often more interested in learning how to eradicate this plant from the landscape than how to grow it. It is a very aggressive plant which, if not preemptively restrained, will spread aggressively by branched, creeping rhizomes. Once established, it can be extremely difficult to remove by digging because its rhizomes spread wide and deep, and any small section of rhizome left behind can sprout a new plant. Consider using soil barriers to restrict growth. In water gardens or tub gardens, plant in pots at water bottom to contain growth (both height and spread).

Noteworthy Characteristics:

Scouring rush (also commonly called rough horsetail) is a non-flowering, rush-like, rhizomatous, evergreen perennial which typically grows 3-5 tall and is native to large portions of Eurasia, Canada and the U.S., including Missouri. It typically occurs in wet woods, moist hillsides and peripheries of water bodies (lakes, rivers, ponds). This species features rigid, rough, hollow, vertically-ridged, jointed-and-segmented, bamboo-like, dark green stems (to 1/2 diameter at the base) which rise up from the plant rhizomes. Each stem node (joint) is effectively marked by a whorl of tiny, stem-clasping, scale-like leaves which are fused into an ash-gray sheath (1/4 long) ending in a fringe of teeth. Teeth are usually shed during the growing season. Each sheath is set off and accentuated, both above and below, by thin, stem-ringing, black bands. Photosynthesis is basically carried on by the stems of this plant. Vegetative and fertile stems are alike in this species, with some vegetative stems bearing, at the stem tips, pine cone-like fruiting heads (to 1 long) which contain numerous spores. The evergreen stems are particularly noticeable in winter and can provide significant interest to the landscape. Stems have a high silica content and were used by early Americans for polishing pots and pans, hence the common name of scouring rush. Equisetum is not a rush however. Nor is it a fern. Equisetum is the single surviving genus of a class of primitive vascular plants that dates back to the mid-Devonian period (350 + million years ago). Today, the equisetums are categorized as fern allies in large part because they, like the ferns, are non-flowering, seedless plants which reproduce by spores.

Problems:

No serious insect or disease problems. Very aggressive spreader.

Uses:

Water gardens. Japanese gardens. Bog gardens. Stream or pond peripheries. Good plant for covering a wet low spot where nothing else will grow. Interesting plant for large patio containers. Provides strong vertical accent to any planting.

Missouri Botanical Garden, 2001-2011


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