Equisteraceae is a family of "Fern Allies"; in that they have life cycles similar to ferns (see Fern Characteristics), no flowers, but have cones like gymnopserms (firs and pines) and seeds. They are also more diverse in their form than ferns.
The visible parts of members of Equisteraceae sprout from a series of underground stems. The surface of the plant contains silica and may have projections of the material that give them a harsh, gritty (scouring) surface. So much so, they were once used for scouring pots and pans.
In general, they favor wet areas, usually found along creeks and seeps. On Montara Mountain, we can find Equisetum hypemale ssp. affine - (Western Scouring Rush) and Equisetum telmateia ssp. braunii - (Giant Horsetail).
Leaves: A united sheath encircling the stem above each joint, with 20 -30 teeth that are like long hairs.
Stems: Upright, jointed, green/yellow; hollow, at least 6 mm thick.
Seeds: Spores are developed in a cone-like structure on an entirely separate, short-lived, leaf-less stem. January - March.
Location: Wet areas, along creeks and seeps throughout the mountain.
Status: Common - Native.
600x450 JPEG - 96K
Further description & Comment: Up to 3 feet tall.
Colonies like the ones pictured here may just be one or two plants, with all the above-ground stems connected to a common underground stem network.
E. telmateia . is interesting in its production of a separate stem unit that produces its seeds in spore form. These smaller, yellowish, leaf-less stems form a cone-like structure of rings that turn brown as the spores mature. They are often mistaken for young forms of the "horsetails" seen here, altho they die back quickly after releasing their spores to be replaced by the leafy stems.
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