|Yeah, it looks all dewy and innocent now,|
but just wait til it shoulders aside all
your other plants.
|Spindly top of horsetail struggling to outdo|
similarly sized neighbors.
Short of poisoning the entire front yard (not an option, as I don't use herbicides, and anyway, apparently this ploy ends up killing all the plants except the horsetails) or swathing it in barrier material, clearly the only way to cope was to give up the notion of a slope sweetly bathed in low-growing alpine plants and to plant things taller than horsetails.
So far, this plan's worked rather well. The horsetails push and shove their way through the crowd of other plants, but can't kill them. Their stalky remains are largely hidden as they decompose in winter.
The horsetail, as you might guess, somewhat resembles a horse's tail (that is, an ungroomed, scraggly horse's tail). Other people in its worldwide range think so, too: The Dutch call it "paardestaart"--horsetail--and it's coda di cavallo and queue de cheval in Italian and French, respectively. (These names make me think of Pigpen in A Charlie Brown Christmas saying, after hearing about the ancient history of the dirt boiling around him, "Sort of makes you want to treat me with more respect!")
It also puts people in mind of a frightened cat with an upright, bushy tail: another Dutch name for it is Kattenstaart, "cat tail," and some Germans refer to it as Katzenwedel--"cat frond."
But many of its names suggest how it was used by people from Native Americans to rural Europeans: "bottlebrush," ,"scouring rush," Zinnkraut (tin-herb). The high silica content of its stems made it gritty enough to work like sandpaper, and it was used to scrub cooking utensils and to smooth wood. Apparently it's still used as sandpaper by some woodworkers (and as a makeshift potscrubber by backpackers).
We decided to put our handy crop of horsetails to the test on a pot badly in need of scrubbing--one that got ignored while it was boiling noodles for us and now bears ghostly images of noodles on its burned bottom.
|Burned pot, before.|