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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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