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Nature Notebook – Scouring Rush

“If it doesn’t make a flower and seeds, how does it make more of itself?” The slender green stalk of the field horsetail had whorls of green leaf-like “branches” but no signs of any flowering parts.

The main mode of reproduction for the horsetail family is the development of new plants from buds on the nodes of the prolific and perennial rhizomes. Two types of stems are produced.

In the summer, buds that will become fruiting stalks bearing spore-containing cones begin to develop. They will emerge early in the following spring to shed the spores. Buds that will become vegetative shoots (the photosynthesizing part) begin to develop in the fall. They will emerge after the spore cones have died. These stems then die in winter.

If the ejected spores find the right habitat and get established, then a new colony of horsetails will begin.

Scouring rush (also known as snakegrass) is also a horsetail but it lacks the tiny green “branches.” Like the horsetails, it contains hard silica, which Native Americans used to scrape their eating bowls.