Equisetum pratense

Botanical Name : Equisetum pratense
Family: Equisetaceae
Genus: Equisetum
Species: E. pratense
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pteridophyta
Class: Equisetopsida
Order: Equisetales

Common Names : Meadow horsetail, Shade horsetail or Shady horsetail

Habitat : Equisetum pratense is native to arctic and temperate regions of Europe, including Britain, N. America, central and northern Asia. It grows on grassy stream banks, up to 900 metres.

Description:
Equisetum pratense is in general a green, bottlebrush-like creeping perennial , growing to 0.6 m (2ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. The seeds ripen in April.

Summery in detail:
It has branching rootstocks, rooted at the nodes. The Arial stems may be annual or Perennial, are cylindrical, fluted, simple or with whorled branches at the jointed nodes. The internodes are usually hollow. The Surfaces of the stems are covered with Silica. The Cones are terminal.

*Stems dimorphic; slender, erect, hollow, and annual. Central canal about 1/6 to 1/3 diameter of the stem.
*Sterile stems to 18″, upright and whitish green; branched, with long, thin, tapering tip and 10-18 minutely roughened ridges. Internodes about 1″ apart.
*Fertile Stems to 15″, upright, brown; initially unbranched, branching and greening up only after cones have disappeared.
*Branches 5″ long, thin and delicate, straight, smoothed, solid, 3-sided, and unbranched; horizontal to drooping; borne in whorls. First branch segment not longer than adjacent stem sheath. *Teeth deltoid, slightly incurving, with thin white margins.
*Leaf Sheaths pale, 2-6 mm long, 2-4.5 mm wide, with 8-10 brown, white-edged teeth, 1.5-4 mm long.
*Rhizomes dull, black, slender, deeply creeping, and branching.
*Roots black, wiry kinky.
*Cones 1″ long, blunt tipped, on very long stalks; at the tips of fertile stem.
*Spore Clusters – in 1 – 2 cm long cone, on long talk at tip of bottlebrush-like shoot (whorled branches may be absent at first), soon fall off

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Notes:
Meadow horsetail is often confused with common horsetail; however, all of meadow horsetail’s shoots are green and have whorls of branches. Only common horsetail has small, brown, unbranched, fertile stems. The sterile stems of meadow horsetail are generally more slender and fragile looking than those of the lengthy of the first branch segment relative to the length of the adjacent stem sheath. The branch segment is shorter than or equal to the stem sheath in meadow horsetail, but longer in common horsetail. Horsetails contain an enzyme (thiaminase) that destroys vitamin B1 (thiamine). In large quantities, they have caused deaths in livestock, though poisoning is quickly reversed by removing horsetails from the diet. Their effect on humans is not completely understood, but raw horsetails can act as a poison. Cooking destroys the thiaminase. Only very small quantities should be taken internally, and people with high blood pressure or other cardiovascular problems are warned against using horsetail.

Cultivation:
Prefers a moist soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. Plants are hardy to about -30°c. Plants have a deep and penetrating root system and can be invasive. If grown in the garden they are best kept in bounds by planting them in a large container which can be sunk into the ground.

Propagation:
Spores – best collected as soon as they are ripe in the spring and surface-sown immediately on a sterile compost. Keep moist and pot up as soon as the plants are large enough to handle. Very difficul. Division. The plants usually spread very freely when well sited and should not really need any assistance.
Edible Uses: Roots – raw or cooked. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. A further report says that the peeled stems, base of the plant, root and tubers were eaten raw by the N. American Indians, the report went on to say that this may be inadvisable.
Medicinal Uses: Horsetails have an unusual chemistry compared to most other plants[238]. They are rich in silica, contain several alkaloids (including nicotine) and various minerals

Known Hazards :Large quantities of the plant can be toxic. This is because it contains the enzyme thiaminase, a substance that can rob the body of the vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase. The plant also contains equisetic acid – see the notes on medicinal uses for more information.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with    your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Equisetum+pratense
http://www.rook.org/earl/bwca/nature/ferns/equisetumpra.html
http://www.borealforest.org/ferns/fern5.htm

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