Sunday 1 April 2012: Echoes of the dinosaurs
The common horse-tail, Equisetum arvense, is an ancient species of plant whose ancestors were browed by dinosaurs. Modern horsetails are only a few centimetres high but their ancestors included tree-like species up to 200 feet in height living in the Carboniferous forests. They all evolved long before the flowering plants came along and they produce spores rather than seeds. They are true survivors and practically indestructible - as any gardener afflicted with them will testify. They laugh at modern weed killers!
The common horsetail produces two kinds of shoots. The first shoots to emerge in the spring are the reproductive squad and are topped with cone-like clusters of spore capsules. These are the ones in the photograph. In a couple of weeks time they will be replaced with green shoots whose role in life will be photosynthesis, growth and replenishing the energy stores.