HORSETAIL. (Equisetum Arvense)
Folk Names – Mare’s Tails, Bottle-brush, Pewterwort.
Any gardener will tell you that finding horsetail in your garden is a black day. It’s tenacious, profligate and cheeky. And these are probably the exact factors that have allowed this singular plant to have survived since before the dinosaurs. Yes. Before the flippin’ dinosaurs.
Once upon a time this spiky little superstar didn’t hide itself amongst the grass verges, it towered, majestic in sweeping forests, like a gardener’s worst nightmare coming true. It was vast and huge, and then genetically robust enough to change as the world changed. It survived along with its other smart cousins the Fern family. Every time I spot a bottlebrush stalk of horsetail trying to blend in with the blander grasses around it, I am always struck by its ancient heritage. It gets a pointed finger and a nod of the head. If any plant deserves a high five it’s this one.
And if this wasn’t enough if also contains a number of useful little somethings that are beneficial to both our health and our gardens. Now I’m not about to suggest anyone drinks horsetail tea without consulting an appropriate professional, as is the case with any plant I might mention, but it has been used medicinally for countless years. It contains high levels of silicon, is helpful in both cleansing and healing. It can stop gum’s bleeding and loose teeth, it can be used as a compress for ruptured connective tissue, and can staunch wounds, internally and externally, where its styptic value is most useful.
It can even be boiled down into an infusion/decoction and used as a fungicide for rust, mildew and blackspot on roses – a horticultural experiment I will be initiating this afternoon! Or you could allow it to rot down in a bucket of water with some nettles and comfrey to produce a stinky, but nutritious, feed for your precious plants. It’s folklore and historically magical uses probably stem from its planetary associations in Culpeper: Saturn in Pisces. It has primarily been used for fertility magic, due no doubt to its survivalist, fecund nature (and the emerging plant in spring looks like a you-know-what). But it is also recommended for strengthening resolve, setting boundaries and scouring away emotional debris.
The big question is why do we rip this amazing, unassuming plant out of our growing spaces? Instead we should nod our heads and be mpressed. After all here is the living proof that being tenacious, profligate and cheeky is definitely the way forward.