Half-Term Kids Activities and Weed Week – ‘Horsetail’

As it’s half term for the children here in Leicestershire this week, I thought I’d do something a little bit different. Each day I will be looking at a different activity to do with children. The activity will be fun and obviously cheap.

 

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Firstly though, I will continue with ‘Weed week – know your enemy’. The more you know about a weed, the more likely you are to stop it from taking hold in your garden.

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Today’s weed is Equisetum arvense (Horsetail) – A perennial weed

The Latin name for Horsetail is ‘Equisetum arvense’. It is derived from the Latin words ‘equus’, meaning horse, and ‘seta’, meaning bristle.

Equisetum arvense (Horsetail) is often confused with ‘Mare’s-tail’ which is a similar shaped weed. ‘Mare’s-tail’ (Hippuris vulgaris) is actually an aquatic weed that is commonly found in ponds or slow flowing streams.

Equisetum arvense or Horsetail is a perrenial weed, (a plant that lives for more than two years)

The stems of Horsetails contain significant quantities of silica granules and silica based compounds that give the plant mildly abrasive qualities, which were utilised by early settlements for cleaning pots and polishing wood. Medical records dating back to ancient Roman, Greek and Chinese civilisations show that Horsetail has been used as a herbal medicine with multiple uses.

I think Horsetail is a fascinating weed as it has been around for approximately thirty million years. Its descendants, a group of ancient tree like plants, thrived 300 million years ago. Fossil evidence has been found that show some of these ancestors reached over thirty metres in height.

Horsetail is really hard to eradicate as the rhizomes go very deep into the soil, in fact several meters down. They like moist clay soil and thrive in these conditions, but it will grow in most soils.

Weed killers are not usually effective in killing this weed, as it has a hard waxy cuticle. You can use glyphosate to try and kill Horsetail, but you need to ‘bruise’ parts of each plant to allow the weed killer to penetrate it.

A better choice is to hoe it really frequently, as this will eventually ‘starve’ the plant as it won’t be able to photosynthesize effectively.

When you are next ‘cursing’ this weed, remember it has been around far longer than we have.

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Today’s Half-Term Activity – A Rain Catcher and Weather Chart

As it’s autumn here in the UK and the weather isn’t always good, I thought it would be good to include a Rain Catcher, so kids can record the amount of rain that actually falls and a Weather Chart.

You can tailor this activity to the age of the children.  Older children can do this in far more detail.

All you need is an old bottle and a wooden spoon, and a few drops of food colouring (if you have some).  The colouring just helps the kids see the water better but it isn’t necessary.

Cut the bottle into two pieces.

Put the top half of the bottle upside down, inside the other half of the bottle so it fits snugly.

Add a few drops of food colouring (if you have it) so you can see the rain water easily.

Mark a wooden spoon with lines, one centimetre apart from the bottom of the spoon.

Have fun decorating the wooden spoon, however you want to and then place it inside the bottle.

Put it outside to catch the rain.  I put rocks around mine to stop it blowing away.

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To carry on the weather theme, children may find it fun to fill in a weather chart each day as well. The picture below shows a chart that is more suitable to smaller children.  Older children could do a chart in far more detail and even take this one step further and look at cloud shapes and names or past and current temperatures.

It’s all educational but fun and if they take it into school after half-term, I’m sure it will impress their teachers:

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today

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6 thoughts on “Half-Term Kids Activities and Weed Week – ‘Horsetail’

  1. I have a lot of this in my garden and have tried to get it to grow in a pot as I really love it, but not among the fruit and veg! It does weaken if you keep pulling it out but, as you say, the stems go down to Australia and beyond ;o)

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