Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Horse Hair in Ice

This is a common plant found pretty much all over North America and is commonly known as horsetail or scouring rush.  There are several species of this plant in the genus, Equisetum, which means "horse bristles" (hence horse hair).  It is found in wet areas like river and stream banks, ponds, lakes, etc. and is interesting in the fact that it contains a high amount of silica.  This gives this plant a rough, abrasive texture that makes it useful for polishing or scouring which is where "scouring rush" comes from.  It makes a good wilderness scrubby pad for cleaning those dirty camp dishes or as a kind of sandpaper for smoothing and polishing wood and other soft materials.  Equisetum has some edible and medicinal qualities:  the roots and young fertile shoots can be peeled and cooked and then eaten but be sure to cook it first as the raw plant has an enzyme that will destroy vitamin B1, cooking makes it harmless; the plant is also high in calcium and teas made with it have been used as a urinary tract cleaner.  As with any edible or medicinal wild plant, research it extensively, talk to others who are familiar with it, and try only a small sample of it your first time!  DO NOT rely solely on any information you may read in this blog!
This photo was taken at a local lake which has been frozen for most of the winter now where this species of Equisetum is a common plant growing in the shallows.  This slab of ice is about one foot thick.

The next several photos are some experimenting with light, ice, camera settings, and computer editing.  As a former southern boy from rural Alabama, I am still a little wary whenever I am walking across a frozen lake despite the fact that this ice is about a foot thick. 

In case any of you readers out there have been waiting for another slightly blurry bird photo, here you go.

These avian buddies are pelagic cormorants,Phalacrocorax pelagicus, which are common loiterers on our city dock during the winter.  They always hang out at the farthest point of the dock making it very difficult to get very close.  They are sea birds that feed mostly on fish and are about the size of a small, slender goose.

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