Equisetum hyemale L.

tall scouring-rush

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Tall scouring rush is so called because its high silica content made it useful, in the past, for polishing or scouring metal, pewter, and wood. Dried pieces of common scouring rush are still used by woodwind players to scrape and shape reeds.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), shores of rivers or lakes

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Stem form
the stem is relatively straight
Branches
there are no branches off the main stem
Cone tip shape
the tip of the spore cone has a small, sharp point
Sheathes on older stems
the leaf sheathes fall off in older stems
Sheath color
the leaf sheath is mainly black
Stem cross-section
more than half the stem diameter is occupied by the hollow central cavity
Number of stem ridges
14–50
Stem color
the aerial stem color is green
Sheath border color
the border of the leaf sheath is dark, or with a narrow white edge
Length of branch section
NA
Show All Characteristics
  • Leaves
    Leaves per node
    14–50
    Sheath border color
    the border of the leaf sheath is dark, or with a narrow white edge
    Sheath color
    the leaf sheath is mainly black
    Sheathes on older stems
    the leaf sheathes fall off in older stems
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • shores of rivers or lakes
  • Spores or spore cones
    Cone length
    10–20 mm
    Cone tip shape
    the tip of the spore cone has a small, sharp point
    Spore form
    the spores are green and spherical
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Branch grooves
    NA
    Branches
    there are no branches off the main stem
    How hollow is stem
    At least 50
    Length of branch section
    NA
    Number of stem ridges
    14–50
    Plant height
    180–2200 mm
    Stem cavities
    22
    Stem color
    the aerial stem color is green
    Stem cross-section
    more than half the stem diameter is occupied by the hollow central cavity
    Stem differences
    the vegetative and reproductive stems are similar in appearance
    Stem form
    the stem is relatively straight
    Stem texture
    the stem feels fairly to very rough
    Stem thickness
    2.5–17.5 mm

Wetland Status

Occurs in wetlands or non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FAC)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

ssp. affine

Rhode Island
rare (S-rank: S2), concern (code: C)

var. affine

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Equisetum variegatum:
stems with 3-12 ridges and persistent leaves (vs. E. hyemale, with stems with 14-50 ridges and deciduous leaves from all but upper nodes).

Synonyms

  • Equisetum hyemale L. var. robustum (A. Braun) A.A. Eat.
  • Hippochaete hyemalis (L.) Bruhin ssp. affinis (Engelm.) Holub

Family

Equisetaceae

Genus

Equisetum

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Our subspecies is Equisetum hyemale L. ssp. affine (Engelm.) Calder & Taylor.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

3.  Equisetum hyemale L. ssp. affine (Engelm.) Calder & Taylor N

tall scouring-rush. Equisetum hyemale L. var. robustum (A. Braun) A.A. Eat.; Hippochaete hyemalis (L.) Bruhin ssp. affinis (Engelm.) Holub • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT; throughout. Sandy slopes and roadsides, riverbanks, and borrow pits.

3×8. Equisetum hyemale × Equisetum variegatum Equisetum ×‌mackaii (Newman) Brichan is an infrequent scouring-rush hybrid known from CT, MA, NH, VT. It is found in many locations where the parental taxa are sympatric. It has 7–16 leaves at each node that are persistent or some deciduous, 
with dark centers and thin white margins (the white margins broad and prominent in 
 E. variegatum). The sheaths have an apical black band or are ± black throughout, 
only rarely developing an ash-gray medial band (as in E. hyemale).

E. laevigatum A. Braun. Equisteum ×‌ferrissii Clute is a very rare scouring-rush hybrid known from CT, MA. It is much over-reported in the region, and most collections are merely variants of E. hyemale. Like other New England members of the former subgenus Hippochaete (species 3, 6, and 8), it has an apiculate strobilus apex. The leaves number 14–32 at each node. The sheaths often flare upward and have only a thin apical black band below the articulation point of the teeth, rarely developing also a brown basal band (rather than with apical and basal black bands separated by a medial ash-gray band in E. hyemale). The stem internodes of this hybrid have low, blunt scabrules on the ridges (rather than conspicuous, sharp scabrules as in E. hyemale).