23 November 2008

Toadpipe (Equisetum arvense)

A few weeks ago I wrote about greater horsetail and I have recently found a second member of this primitive plant group, the field horsetail (Equisetum arvense) growing in a small patch by the public footpath through the Brede High Woods old wood yard (TQ 79002074).

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As with most plants, horsetails have been said to have all sorts of medicinal properties effective for a large number of afflictions, but most of these remedies seem to me to be quite suspect if not dangerous.

The plant does, however, contain various toxic chemicals, including nicotine, which might occasionally be beneficial in very small quantities and has sometimes been eaten (definitely not recommended).  This consumption would be more of the fertile shoots that appear in spring rather than the vegetative growths later in the year as shown in the picture above.  These latter are full of silica and calcium and probably work better as dental floss than food.

'Toadpipe' is one of a variety of country names for this widespread and often common plant, again probably referring to the fertile shoots.  If it gets into gardens it can be an almost indestructible menace.

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