Last week I spotted an interesting post on Twitter from BSBI member Martin, with a photo of an unusual looking Horsetail. I asked Martin to tell us more and he very kindly offers us this guest blogpost:
"I was walking through one of my local ancient woodlands back in June preparing for a “Woodland Explorer” day I was to be leading for a group of local eight year-old children (which you can read about here) and noticed something odd out of the corner of my eye. It seemed to be a Giant Horsetail but there was something not quite right about it; I didn’t have the right reference book with me so I took a photo of it.
"When I got back home I looked at the pictures in my reference books, which is usually the quickest way to ID something for me, but Giant Horsetail it seems has single whorls only.
"Read the descriptions – to be honest I’m not the best at following all the technical words - Wood Horsetail does the many small branches thing, but some of the bits weren’t right and my plant was way too big. I discovered there were hybrids *sigh* and tried the image search on the internet.
"There’s a Bowman’s Horsetail (who knew?) that looked similar – Giant horsetail hybridising with Wood Horsetail. I guessed at that, but as it’s so rare and obscure I thought I’d missed something really, really obvious somewhere. I did my usual trick of waiting for second thoughts.
"Six days later, whilst doing the washing up, I remembered that the BSBI had a whole load of experts you can ask". [LM: Only if you are a BSBI member, sorry!] "A quick hunt for the BSBI Yearbook and I had an email address for the Horsetail Referee. I sent the pic and suggested it might be Equisetum x bowmanii.
"I got a lovely answer, thanking me for sending the photographs and saying 'No, it’s not the hybrid (I can send you a sample of it if you wish to compare) but it is very interesting, if you wouldn’t mind sending a pressed stem as then I can check for absolute certainty'.
"To cut a long story short, about a month later I collected more, photographed and pressed them, and now I’ve sent them off and so we should know what it is in a couple of weeks or so".
Martin has promised to send an update once he hears back from the Referee. All 106 of BSBI's expert Plant Referees are volunteers, just like our 186 County Recorders, and they provide their services to members as part of the membership package. A very important part too!