Dwarf scouring rush

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Epithet means "rushlike."

description: The rhizome is short-creeping. Twisting, wiry, ridged branches without a central cavity form a tangled mass of foliage with small sheaths of three teeth garnished with deciduous hairlike tips. it is diagnostically significant that the stems are not hollow. Fertile cones are partially enclosed in the ultimate sheath and may persist over winter. The three teeth trim six equal-sided ridges, helping to distinguish this species from the similarly compact, although slightly larger, Equise-tum variegatum that has four or more teeth, a matching number of ridges, and nontwisting shoots.

Equisetum hyemale growing in a wet lakeside site with the Japanese blood grass, Imperata cylindrica.

Dwarf upright but nontwisting stems of Equisetum variegatum surround a seedling Acer palmatum in a small pot displayed for close viewing.

range and habitat: This dwarf is native to cold northern zones up to and including the alpine areas around the world. It appreciates moisture and can be found in a variety of substrates.

culture and comments: With its diminutive stature, the miniature scouring rush makes a delightful conversation piece in a well-watered container. It would, in fact, be overwhelmed in anything but a Lilliputian garden but has been used effectively as an understory in bonsai or, when containerized, as a companion plant on the borders of bogs. While not as aggressive as its brethren, it can spread, given the opportunity, so confinement is strongly recommended.

Equisetum telmateia Giant horsetail

Epithet means "of marshes and mud."

Deciduous, 1 to 5 ft. (30 to 150 cm). Zones 7 to 9. Dimorphic.

description: The rhizome is long-creeping and can tunnel about the neighborhood at a depth of 4 ft. (120 cm). Upright grooved stems have layers of branches spreading outward from collarlike sheaths. This species is extremely similar to Equisetum arvense but is taller, and alert readers of keys will find that it has upwards of 14 teeth on each sheath rather than the lower number of E. arvense. The fertile fronds are early risers, significantly shorter than the sterile, pale peachy brown, and quickly deciduous.

range and habitat: The distribution is somewhat amazing with colonies extending down the west coast of North America, but including Europe, the Azores, and canary islands. some botanists divide the North American and European material into separate subspecies.

culture and comments: This species is a common weed and not suitable for garden use.

Equisetum variegatum Variegated scouring rush Epithet means "variegated." Evergreen, 4 to 12 in. (10 to 30 cm).Zones 1 to 8.

description: The rhizome is creeping giving rise to dense tufts of upright, slender, ridged, green stems. Sheaths are two-toned, black and white, a condition responsible for the "variegatum" of the botanical name. Numbers of teeth and ridges vary, but significantly are more than three. stems are hollow and unbranched. Fertile cones, which may be long-lived, are enclosed in sheaths at the tips of the stems. The ridge numbers, taller size, and nontwisty hollow stems separate it from fellow dwarf, Equisetum scirpoides.

range and habitat: This species is circumboreal, forming colonies in open wet sites especially at colder higher altitudes.

culture and comments: Like Equisetum scirpoides, the variegated scouring rush is an interesting plant for close-up viewing in a container. it makes an atypical bonsai and given sufficient watering may be used successfully as a houseplant.

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