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  • Road Closures Due to El Portal Fire

    The Big Oak Flat Road between Crane Flat and the El Portal Road is temporarily closed. There is no access to Yosemite Valley via the Big Oak Flat Road or Highway 120. Tioga Road is open and accessible via Big Oak Flat and Tioga Pass Entrances. More »

  • Campground Closures Due to Fire

    Crane Flat, Bridalveil Creek, and Yosemite Creek Campgrounds are temporarily closed. More »

  • Yosemite National Park is Open

    Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, and Wawona/Mariposa Grove areas are open and accessible via Highways 140 and 41. Tioga Road is not accessible via Highways 140 and 41 due to a fire.

Mather Musings: Horsetail or Scouring Rush

July 19, 2012 Posted by: PU - Mather District Interpretive Ranger

Horsetail or Scouring Rush
Equisetum sp.
Horsetail    Close-up image of horsetail
You might be familiar with Yosemite's Sequoia's having a fossil lineage that goes back to the dinosaurs (80 million years ago), but there is a plant in Yosemite that has a lineage that goes back even further to the time when vertebrates were just starting to move onto land (300 million years ago!). It is the Horsetail, or Scouring Rush (Equisetum sp.).  It has highly reduced leaves and bears no cones, flowers, or even seeds. It has sperm that swims, so it is always found in areas where there will be enough water to reproduce. Great stands of these ancient plants can be found along the Carlon trail. The plant gets its common name from radiating branches along the stalks of some species that make them look like horse's tails. Because of the presence of the abrasive mineral silica in its stems, it was used by pioneers to scour pots and pans on the trail. Bears like to graze on the new shoots that come up in the spring and they are easy to identify in their scat.

mather musings

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Did You Know?

Train traveling along the Merced River to Yosemite National Park.

Starting in 1907, the Yosemite Valley Railroad brought passengers bound for Yosemite Valley up the Merced River canyon to El Portal. From there, they would take stagecoaches to the Valley. Some of the old train cars are now on display in El Portal.