LOTS OF PICTURES FURTHER DOWN THE PAGE!
There's a grassy bank near where I live where strange things grow. Every spring, disgusting little stalks appear. They look like fungi which have muddled their identity with plants - or the other way round. Then they vanish. Grass and spring flowers grow up around them and, over and over, I loose track of what happens next. Do they wither and die or grow into something prettier . . . and if so . . . what? How come I never notice an unfamiliar plant in with the rest?
This year, I decided to watch. I became a sort of private eye, going back and back and back to see what was going on but, yet again, I missed the magic moment when they disappeared. What was going on?
Well, one thing happened . . . that I missed it again. Simply missed it. The magic must have happened very quickly.
Meanwhile Horsetails (Equisetum sp.) were growing up all around - up the bank, across on the other side of the path. Lots of them. Very pretty. Gardeners don't like them because once they get a grip, they don't go away. But in the right context - wonderful. (I think these ones are Equisetum arvense.)
Long and short . . . and going round in circles . . . these plants - whose forbears lived as ground cover in prehistoric forests - have several ways of growing. The yucky things on stems are the same variety of plant as the familiar green horsetails which come later. They spring from the same source and . . . I've given up trying to understand (for the moment). If you are interested to learn more, it would be worth it. I'm reluctant to explain anything because my knowledge is thin and I don't know enough to weed out mistakes from facts when it comes to Horsetails on the internet. Fortunately, Happy Mouffetard has kindly provided a link to a diagram and more information - so that's a start!
For this post, I'll confine myself to observation - how the first kind came; how they were superceeded by the (very different looking) rest - and encourage you to look out for them. They aren't fully grown yet. I don't want to delay this post until they are fading. You will want to marvel at them now!
|2nd April 2011. A grassy bank with things sticking out of it.|
The tall ones are four or five inches high.
|The smallest are like this.|
|Ones at the next stage are like this.|
The tops may be (to my eyes) ugly but this part of the stem (to my eyes) is beautiful and fascinating.
|April 8th 2011|
Then . . . spores are released. (I think this is what is happening!) Hopefully, someone will say - which is a good moment to thank Toffee Apple, Rob and Michael Peverett for identifying the plant (with blue flowers) in the last post as Green Alkanet.
Moving from 2nd April to the 8th . . .
|April 8th 2011|
The plants with spores (in the photos above) disappeared and new kinds of plant began to grow nearby. The photo above is of early Horsetails. But so were the others. Am I able to say they are the same plant? (You might like to refer back to the link Happy Mouffetard found.)
|Close up - with dew! - Also April 8th.|
By the 17th April they are coming up everywhere - here they are in the bushes, along with bramble, in a kind of hawthorn den, along with the blue bluebells and white bluebells too. (You can tell I am not a botanist!)
|April 17th 2011. (Peer in closely or look at the close-up below!)|
|Look at the foot of the picture for emerging horsetails.|
April 17th 2011
Gradually, a short forest grows. The horsetails below are about seven inches high. This is how they were on 22nd April.
|22nd April 2011|
And, in their most recent state, on the 1st of May. This one is nine or ten inches high.
|May 1st 2011 - this one is leaning because of the wind and direction of the sun.|
Mostly, they are upright.
This is not the end of the story. Their arms will lower to 90 degrees from the stem.
Watch out! There are horsetails about! And, now you know - remember the spot if you find them and see if you can find the early versions next year.