Equisetum hyemale (Tall Scouring Rush)
|Also known as:||Common Scouring Rush, Rough Horsetail|
|Habitat:||sun; wet sandy soil; ditches, meadows, stream and river banks|
|Plant height:||2 to 4 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FAC|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Leaves and stems:
The sterile stem is rough, green and has no branches. The “leaves” are reduced to a sheath that surrounds the stem with a black band around the base. The sheath is pale gray, with 14 to 50 black teeth that fall off as the season progresses, sometimes leaving just a black ring around the top of the sheath. Stems are evergreen and persist through the winter but eventually turn brown and wither away. The central cavity is about ¾ the width of the stem but the stem is firm.
Fertile stems are like the sterile stems but with a 1-inch cone at the tip of the stem. Cones are rounded at the tip but with an abrupt, small, sharp point. Occasionally old stems develop branches with cones as well.
Tall Scouring Rush is one of three similar, unbranched Equisetum species in Minnesota, the others are Smooth Scouring Rush (E. laevigatum) and Variegated Scouring Rush (E. variegatum). E. hyemale can be identified by the black band around the base of its pale gray sheath and often a dark ring around the top as well. E. laevigatum is further distinguished by a ring around the top of the sheath, rarely the base, and E. variegatum by fewer, larger persistent teeth with distinct white edging. The rough stems of E. hyemale were used by early Americans for cleaning and "scouring" pots and pans. There are apparently multiple varieties of E. hyemale but only var. affine is widely recognized in North America, including Minnesota. E. hyemale hybridizes with E. laevigatum, producing E. × ferrissii, and with E. variegatum, producing E. × mackaii.
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- Tall Scouring Rush plants
- old stems
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- a colony of Tall Scouring Rush
- sheath teeth before falling off
- atypical branches
Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Clay, Hubbard and Dakota counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?