Horsetail – Equisetum hyemale

As we pulled up to an office building, the landscaping caught my eye.  First, I was happy to see they had landscaping and not solely grass between parking spaces.  Secondly, the choice of plants was unusual but ones which I knew – bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and horsetail (Equisetum hyemale).  Before heading out to our destination I called the kids over for a closer look at this usual plant.

While I have seen horsetail before in natural settings, it is not one often used in landscaping.  Perhaps that is due to its aggressive nature and unusual visual attributes.  Lacking leaves more of us would recognize, the tall, straight, green and black stems have a rough texture and a dry sound. They are hollow in the middle and do not flower.

The choice of a bald cypress and horsetail led me to think they were also using this particular parking lot island as a natural drainage area, as both plants will grow in moist conditions or even where there is standing water. Sure enough, after looking closer, I noticed that this area was not only wider than a typical parking lot island, but it was sloped toward the middle.

Without telling the kids about the plant, I took them over and let them investigate it for themselves first.  Then I showed them how the various segments of step would “pop” off from the others.  That right there was a hit. A few stems were given to the advancement of scientific exploration. 😉

Horsetail spreads via spores, rather than flowers, found in pods at the tops of stems.  These rather unimpressive structures do stand out from the straightness of the stem, though do not distract from the overall larger look of the grouping.

Upon further reading I came across several warnings about the potential aggressive nature of this plant.  Perhaps that is why it is not used more in plantings, even though it will grow and thrive in a variety of conditions.  Using it in a parking lot, surrounded by curbs, it the perfect spot.  The spores may still spread further out, but that did not seem to be a concern in this particular setting.

Knowing this native plant will grow in areas where others may not, even in shallow standing water, there are times where its spreading nature may not be so much a concern as a benefit.