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Common name:Snake grass
Scientific name:Equisetum hyemale
Alternative common names:
Rough horsetail, Common scouring-rush
In its native range it grows along sandbanks of wetlands and river terraces, as well as lake shores. It is eaten by waterfowl such as geese and ducks. It is a popular ornamental plant, but is highly invasive and aggressive.
Where does this species come from?North America & Eurasia
What is its invasive status in South Africa?NEM:BA Category 1a
Where in South Africa is it a problem?Snake grass is highly invasive when it gets into well-irrigated gardens. It is feared that it could takeover along the country’s waterways if it jumps the garden fence.
How does it spread?Never discard or dump it as it may release spores or resprout. It can also regenerate from underground rootstock metres away from the mother plant.
Why is it a problem?Snake grass is a serious threat to boggy gardens, waterways and wetlands where it can quickly overtake indigenous reeds and plants. Once established, it is very difficult to eradicate.
What does it look like?Snake grass is an evergreen plant with upward growing stems reaching up to 120cm long and each stem is about 3-10mm thick, with a central cavity. It has distinct longitudinal ridges along the stem. The tiny leaves are joined together around the stem, forming a narrow black-green band or sheath at each joint. It does not produce flowers or seeds, but produces a strobili (spore cone) on top of the stem which releases spores Leaves: Tiny leaves are joined together around the stem Flowers: None Fruit/seeds: Spores
Does the plant have any uses?It is a highly ornamental plant that is cherished by landscapers and floral artists. As many as six gardens a year at the Chelsea Flower Show in London feature this plant. Designers, gardeners, landscapers and floral artists are not always aware of the devastating impact the plant could have if it is released into nature.
Plant me instead alternatives
Cape reed or any member of the indigenous restio family.