You may be wondering what this is a photograph of, huh? Well it looks kind of like very fine green barbed wire, but no. It’s not a kind of grass, either. It is does not have any Photoshop jiggery pokery either, this is as I had taken it near the shore of Derwentwater. It was difficult to get at because of a dense screen of trees, so I used my extended zoom. Any ideas, yet?
Well I know it is a Horsetail, and I think it is the Water Horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile).
Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer
July 2018, Derwentwater, Keswick, Cumbria, England. © Pete Hillman.
This is Britain’s largest horsetail, with pinkish-brown fertile stems, and the sterile stems are whitish with 20 to 40 fine grooves. The sterile stems are heavily branched with between 20 to 40 emerging from each node. It can grow up to 2m tall.
Fertile stems ripen in April, and sterile stems appear soon afterwards and remain throughout the summer until they die down in late autumn. Found in damp shady places, like pool edges, ditches and marshes in woodland. A native species, and fairly frequent and widespread in England and Wales, and less so in the north.
Photographs of Great Horsetail (Equisetum telmateia), taken June 2013, nature reserve, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.
The stem branches of this horsetail are branched themselves giving it a distinctive, elegant droop. It can grow up to 8cm tall.
Fertile stems ripen April to May, and it is found in damp woods and moors. Widespread but more common in northern Britain.
Photographs of Wood Horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum), taken June 2013, nature reserve, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.
Also called the ‘Common Horsetail’, the first to be seen of this plant is the pinkish-brown fertile stems, resembling small asparagus sprouts, followed by the green sterile stems with jointed segments and whorls of side shoots forming spreading patches where they grow. Plant height 75cm.
Spore-bearing stems appear in March from tuber-bearing rhizomes, and spores ripen March to June. The sterile stems appear when the fertile stems die back, and are present throughout the summer months into late autumn when the first frosts arrive. Found commonly in damp fields, waste ground, roadsides and in gardens where it may become a troublesome weed. The rhizomes may grow down up to 2m into the ground where they are difficult to remove, and where they may spread into neighbouring properties. Britain’s commonest horsetail, native and widespread throughout.
The Field Horsetail is from a very ancient group of plants which has survived from the Carboniferous age, more than 230 million years ago. This plant, like all horsetails, contains high levels of silica which makes it toxic to livestock.
Photographs taken April 2009 and May 2013, local field near river, Staffordshire, and June 2013, nature reserve, Staffordshire.
The stems of the Water Horsetail are smooth and may be sparsely covered whorls of narrow joined branches. Plant height 50 to 140cm.
Fertile stems ripen June to July. Found in marshes, on pond and lake margins, and ditches. Widespread and locally common in Britain and Ireland.
Photographs taken June 2013, nature reserve, Staffordshire.