Horsetail, Mayflower and Red Soldier Lichen
Our evening walks are becoming more interesting as flora and fauna begin to appear. The Horsetail is just beginning to come forth but later it will blossom into little fir like trees, hence the name. I tried to photograph the "pinkish-blue" Mayflower with limited success. Lighting is very important in capturing the colour successfully. The Red Soldier (British Soldier) Lichen has just started to appear. Again the lighting is very important in successfully capturing the colour of the lichen. I will keep trying because it is now time to carry my camera on our walks.
Horsetail Plant (Equisetum)
Equisetum is a "living fossil", the only living genus of the entire subclass Equisetidae, which for over 100 million years was much more diverse and dominated the understorey of late Paleozoic forests. Some equisetids were large trees reaching to 30 m (98 ft) tall. The genus Calamites of the family Calamitaceae, for example, is abundant in coal deposits from the Carboniferous period. The pattern of spacing of nodes in horsetails, wherein those toward the apex of the shoot are increasingly close together, is said to have inspired John Napier to invent logarithms. Modern horsetails first appeared during the Jurassic period.
A superficially similar but entirely unrelated flowering plant genus, mare's tail (Hippuris), is occasionally referred to as "horsetail", and adding to confusion, the name "mare's tail" is sometimes applied to Equisetum.
The name "horsetail", often used for the entire group, arose because the branched species somewhat resemble a horse's tail. Similarly, the scientific name Equisetum is derived from the Latin equus ('horse') + seta ('bristle').
Other names include candock for branching species, and snake grass or scouring-rush for unbranched or sparsely branched species. The latter name refers to the rush-like appearance of the plants and to the fact that the stems are coated with abrasive silicates, making them useful for scouring (cleaning) metal items such as cooking pots or drinking mugs, particularly those made of tin. E. hyemale, rough horsetail, is still boiled and then dried in Japan to be used for the final polishing process on woodcraft to produce a smooth finish. In German, the corresponding name is Zinnkraut ('tin-herb'). In Spanish-speaking countries, these plants are known as cola de caballo ('horsetail').
Equisetum leaves are greatly reduced and usually non-photosynthetic. They contain a single, non-branching vascular trace, which is the defining feature of microphylls. However, it has recently been recognised that horsetail microphylls are probably not ancestral as in lycophytes (clubmosses and relatives), but rather derived adaptations, evolved by reduction of megaphylls.
The leaves of horsetails are arranged in whorls fused into nodal sheaths. The stems are usually green and photosynthetic, and are distinctive in being hollow, jointed and ridged (with sometimes 3 but usually 6–40 ridges). There may or may not be whorls of branches at the nodes. Unusually, the branches often emerge below the leaves in an internode, and grow from buds between their bases.
The spores are borne under sporangiophores in strobili, cone-like structures at the tips of some of the stems. In many species the cone-bearing shoots are unbranched, and in some (e.g. E. arvense, field horsetail) they are non-photosynthetic, produced early in spring. In some other species (e.g. E. palustre, marsh horsetail) they are very similar to sterile shoots, photosynthetic and with whorls of branches.: 12–15
Horsetails are mostly homosporous, though in the field horsetail, smaller spores give rise to male prothalli. The spores have four elaters that act as moisture-sensitive springs, assisting spore dispersal through crawling and hopping motions after the sporangia have split open longitudinally.
Equisetum cell walls
The crude cell extracts of all Equisetum species tested contain mixed-linkage glucan : Xyloglucan endotransglucosylase (MXE) activity. This is a novel enzyme and is not known to occur in any other plants. In addition, the cell walls of all Equisetum species tested contain mixed-linkage glucan (MLG), a polysaccharide which, until recently, was thought to be confined to the Poales. The evolutionary distance between Equisetum and the Poales suggests that each evolved MLG independently. The presence of MXE activity in Equisetum suggests that they have evolved MLG along with some mechanism of cell wall modification. Non-Equisetum land plants tested lack detectable MXE activity. An observed negative correlation between XET activity and cell age led to the suggestion that XET may be catalysing endotransglycosylation in controlled wall-loosening during cell expansion. The lack of MXE in the Poales suggests that there it must play some other, currently unknown, role. Due to the correlation between MXE activity and cell age, MXE has been proposed to promote the cessation of cell expansion.
Red Soldier Lichen (British Soldier Lichen)
Keywords: British Soldier Plant, Canada, Equisetum, Horsetail Plant, Mayflower, Nova Scotia, Red Soldier Plant, Wild Flora of Nova Scotia