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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - January 16, 2012

From: Los Angeles, CA
Region: California
Topic: Invasive Plants, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Horsetail Rush invasive in Santa Monica CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants: I live about 3 miles from the beach in the Santa Monica area and have an 18inch deep planter area in my backyard that is adjacent to my garage. I like the look of horsetail rush. I see it used often in planters adjacent to buildings and think it would work but am concerned if it's roots are aggressive. Any input would be appreciated.

ANSWER:

There are 11 members of the genus Equisetum, horsetail, native to North America, of which 5 are native to California. Since they all have similar habits, we will use Equisetum hyemale (scouring horsetail) as an example. According to this USDA Plant Profile map, it is native not only to Los Angeles County, but also to every state in North America, Alaska and provinces in Canada, as well as Greenland, so we can be assured that it will thrive in your area. But that really wasn't what you wanted to know; you were asking if it could be aggressive, so we'll look a little further for that.

We already know that this is a moist places, standing water plant, and is considered definitely invasive in those spots. But we thought that perhaps being planted in a planter would minimize the danger of that. However, before you make a decision, you should read the comments in this Dave's Garden forum on Horsetail scouring rush. It is not a pretty picture.

You can get more information from this article on Equisetum hyemale by Earl J. S. Rook, including the fact that it spreads both by rhizomes and by spores.  This sounds like if the right hand don't get you, the left hand will. From the comments we saw, you probably are not too safe thinking you will just give it a try, and see how it does, because apparently, once you have it, you HAVE it.

Generally speaking, we feel that the best way to control invasive plants is to never plant them.

 

From the Image Gallery


Scouringrush horsetail
Equisetum hyemale

Scouringrush horsetail
Equisetum hyemale

Scouringrush horsetail
Equisetum hyemale

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