Thursday, August 07, 2008

My prehistoric nemesis

Dear Diary,
Today, I weeded. Yesterday, I weeded.

If Lamarckian evolution were true, any offspring of mine would be born with a small groove in their index finger, to aid the pulling up of horsetails. I've developed one over the past few days. One of the old chaps down the allotments keeps telling me that if I keep pulling them up, it will drain the sap from them and they'll eventually give up. At least I presumed he was talking about the horsetails, but thinking about it, it's more likely he was talking about their effect on me. After all, they have been around since the end of the Devonian Period in some form or another, so they probably feel they have more right to the earth than I do.

You can't dig their roots out very well, as they go down too deep, but it is extremely satisfying when you pull up a longish bit. That only makes it angry though, as does hoeing. They then return with many heads, like a chlorophyllic Medusa.

Although only small fry compared to their Carboniferous ancestors, today's field horsetail (Equisetum arvense) still has a little of the prehistoric about it. Especially their spore producing bodies sent up in the spring, before the 'leafy' parts appear. Apparently, the plants can be used as scouring pads, as their epidermis contains silica. If you know anyone who needs half a hundredweight of pan scourers, please do let me know. It is also allegedly a herbal remedy.

You can buy pretty ones for the garden pond.

Here's a link to a very dull video on horsetails - don't blame me if you waste two minutes of your life you'll never get back.

11 comments:

artistsgarden said...

I wanted one of the "pretty" ones for the pond as I have seen some in a friends garden - but now that I know its the horsetail family - well I don't know.
Yes I just wasted 2 mins. of my life - well it is still raining.
I am sure you will weaken them .... and they will give up .....
Regards
Karen

Fern said...

Thanks for visitng my blog. Glad you had a good time visitng the Lakes, you'll just have to come back now to visit Dalemain!
My sympathies with the horsetail, it drives me mad too.

JamesA-S said...

I have a job where we have an entire field bespattered with horsetail and I have to say it looks rather fine. I am trying to get rid of the various nettles etc so it looks even better. Sometimes total surrender is the only option.
(I had never heard of Lamarckian Evolution so I can feel that this afternoon has not been entirely wasted. I suppose Amelanchier lamarckii was named after old Jean-Baptiste. Incidentally his Wikipedia portrait makes him look a little like Lee Marvin.)

HappyMouffetard said...

Thanks for your comments.
I do find them kind of attractive in a feathery, primitive sort of way but they're a pain on the allotment.

And if anyone wishes to know which would win a fight between horsetail and couch grass, it's couch grass - I've pulled up several horsetail roots pierced by couch grass.

easygardener said...

I've got the pretty one in my pond. It's been there for a number of years (in a mesh container) and gets checked and repotted every so often. It's never given any trouble or tried to escape - yet!

Titania said...

No, I haven't got any horsetails, thanks to all the gods; but there is a whole pletora of prehistoric whatsthename, which I will never ever be able to get rid off. I have my good days when i leave them alone and I have my bad days when I have more attempts at the nevergetridoffs.

Titania said...

No, I haven't got any horsetails, thanks to all the gods; but there is a whole pletora of prehistoric whatsthename, which I will never ever be able to get rid off. I have my good days when i leave them alone and I have my bad days when I have more attempts at the nevergetridoffs.

Lucy Corrander said...

Are horsetails the same as mare's tails? If so, I've got some and, as long as they don't go mad (so far, so good, I don't think they like my non-soil) I like them.

(This is one reason why visitors should never be allowed to weed anything.)

Lucy

Good Food Shopper said...

Apparently the buds are eaten as a vegetable in Japan in the springtime!

According to my old ADAS notes poor drainage often contributes to the presence of this weed.

The RHS give out advice on control:
http://tinyurl.com/5klaxe
but I think the fact Horsetails have been here for thousands of years gives you a clue how good the solutions are....

HappyMouffetard said...

Easygardener - I do like the pretty one, and was very tempted by it when we built a small pond but couldn't quite bring myself to buy it!

Titania, I'd love to know what your prehistoric whatsthename is! But I don't think I'd want it!

Lucy, I think so - they are sometimes called mares tails, but I believe there is also another plant called mares tail.

Goodfoodshopper - yes, the drainage is a bit poor in places.

I will prevail!

Megan said...

I feel for you. I don't have this one, but I do battle with a lot of persistent weeds, I know the frustration there. Good luck with your efforts.