Illustration © nic-nic 2019
Pest or guest of the month
This monthly selection offers a description of some of Warriston's beasty and 'beastly' inhabitants and advice on how to live with them organically. Find more in our Pest or Guest archive
April pest and guest 2019—Mare's Tail
Christine D, an east side plot holder says:
Mare’s tail / horsetail (equisetum arvense) is an invasive deep rooted perennial that can burrow down over 7 feet into the ground. Some say it goes even deeper, maintaining that it brings up nutrients from deep in the earth, which can be useful to plot holders in a compost soup.
And it's one of our most ancient plants. Dinosaurs loved it!
We, however, spend a lot of time thinking about how to get rid of it by digging, applying vinegar, or spraying it with chemicals.
Whatever we do, most of us find it a bit of a problem.
My experience is that the more you dig it out, the more it re-appears. I’m not one for deep digging — I just pull it out when it appears. It feels easier when it’s slightly longer as you can get a good grip — how satisfying it is when you get a big long root!
I've been told by other plot holders that if you put it in a bucket of water for at least three weeks, you can put the dead roots and water onto your compost heap safely. I've also read that some leading horticulturalists suggest that if your compost heap is good and hot you can just put it straight on!!
While looking for Mare's Tail on the internet, I came across Permaculture Magazine — herbalist Jackie Cooper writes about it an article, 21 August 2013, suggesting it may indeed be a Guest!
She says that Mare's Tail is high in Silica, a common cell salt necessary for life which preserves elasticity, is a gentle diuretic, an astringent and helps heals wounds. It can be used for bleeding and ulcerations and is also used in the repair of connective tissues, particularly in the case of chronic cystitis. It also helps heal lungs damaged by allergies.
So is Mare’s Tail a pest or a guest? Should we perhaps offer a small corner of out allotments to this venerable, healing plant?
Mare’s tail / horsetail equisetum arvense
Photo: Stefan Czapski
It's back! New shoots of Mare's tail appear in spring..