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Scouring rush is in the Equisetaceae (horsetail) family and is easily recognized. In addition it is a evergreen perennial as well as a pteridophyte. According to a study published at the Max Planck Institute, this plant contains a fair bit of silica, in fact, silica accumulations within the stalks increase from about 6 to 14 percent during the growing period. Silica contents within mature plant stalks decrease from about 15 to 10 percent. Scouring rush as a long history of ethnobotanical uses.
Distinguishing Features: This is easy to spot as the scouring rush stem is jointed, hollow, usually unbranched, and have rough longitudinal ridges. Scouring Rush can be distinguished from other horsetails in the state by its large size, rough unbranched stems, and pointed cones. Usually this species is easy to identify, although sometimes it forms sterile hybrids with other horsetails. When this occurs, it is possible to confuse the hybrid with one of the parent species.
Flowers: Like other Pteridophytes (ferns and their relatives), scouring rush does not produce flowers or seeds.
Leaves: The tiny leaves are whorled, joined together around the stem, forming a narrow black-green band or sheath at each joint.
Height: Scouring rush can reach varying heights up to 1 metre (3') tall. The evergreen stems are cylindrical, about 8mm (1/3”) in diametre.
Habitat: Scouring rush occurs in wet places, including pond margins, swamps, floodplains and ditches. It also occurs in open or wooded areas along streams. It can grow in sand, loam, clay, or limestone; poor drainage areas or in shallow water. It grows throughout Canada and the US as well as parts of Europe, Asia and Australia.
Edible parts: The strobil (the fertile shoots in spring) can be cooked and used. The stalk can be used as an asparagus substitute and it contains polyphenolic flavonoids. Roots can be dried and then cooked. It is a good source of starch. Large quantities of the plant can be toxic. Scouring rush contains the enzyme thiaminase, a substance that can deplete 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; do NOT to eat this raw.
Other name: Dutch Rush.
Similar plants: Horsetail.
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