Equisetum palustre

Equisetum palustre

Equisetum palustre, the Marsh Horsetail, is a plant species belonging to the division of horsetails (Equisetophyta).

Description

E. palustre is a perennial cryptophyte, growing between 10 to 50 centimeters (4" to 20"), in rare cases up to 1 meter (3'). Its fertile shoots, which carry ears, are evergreen and shaped like the sterile shoots. The rough, furrowed stem is 1 to 3 mm in diameter with usually 8 to 10 ribs, in rare cases 4 to 12. It contains whorled branches. The tight-fitting sheaths end in 4 to 12 teeth. The lower sheaths are dark brown and much shorter than the sheaths of the main shoot. The central and vallecular are about the same size, but the carinal channels are much smaller. The central channels measure about one sixth of the diameter of the stem.

The spores are spread by the wind (anemochory) and have four long ribbons attached to them. They sit on spore ears which are rounded on the top. Marsh Horsetails often form subterranous runners and tubers, with which they also can proliferate vegetatively.

Ecology

E. palustre is green from spring to autumn and grows spores from June to September. It grows primarily in nutrient-rich wet meadows. It is found in Europe and the circumpolar region up to mountainous heights. Its distribution is declining.

Toxicity

E. palustre is poisonous to herbivorous animals, but not to humans. It contains a vitamin B1-destroying enzyme which makes horses tumble and the piperidine alkaloid palustrine, which can lame cattle. Both substances are stable for years.

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