Snake grass equisetum hyemale, sometimes called the scouring rush, which is now popular among flower arrangers. Picture by Remih.
BEWARE the internet. It can be the very best tool for research, or it can be a right old snake in the grass…
Or, it can provide great confusion when trying to find out more about snake grass, which is now an increasingly popular constituent of floral arrangements.
Tina Parsonage contacted me to learn a little more — and to tell me that she’s looking forward to trying the F1 Natsuhikari cucumber next summer — having taken my recommendation and ordered the seeds from Dobies.
But the main substance of her e-mail concerned her mum, who went to her flower-arranging club the other day, and had to take a number of items along with her, including snake grass.
"Neither of us knew what it was. So she went along without it, and so did the other ladies, but, luckily, the lady demonstrator had taken an amount with her."
When Tina saw the arrangement her mother had done, she thought she would see if she could either get the grass or the seeds, so she could grow her own.
When you look it up, there are a number of varieties and Tina got the idea it was the snake grass Sahab.
She discovered Sahab is tropical and is renowned in parts of the world for the treatment of a range of conditions and serious diseases, including cancer.
Sahab is Clinacanthus nutans, or Phaya-Yor in Thai, has been traditionally used in Thailand for the treatment of herpes infections.
In addition, the grass is also said to exhibit an excellent and rapid-acting anti-inflammatory quality for the relief of minor skin inflammation and insect bites.
It is farmed in tropical parts and it is available as a herbal medicine in this country, but, as far as I am aware, not widely available to the home gardener here — although I am always willing to be proved wrong.
But, I reckon the snake grass Tina wants to know about is equisetum hyemale, sometimes called the scouring rush, which is an ancient plant. It would have inhabited the primeval swamps and damp forests, using its unusual characteristic of spreading both by root and by spore.
It’s very similar to our own indigenous mare’s tail which is called many other things too by gardeners, because mare’s tail spreads like fury on a deep root system and is exceptionally hard to eradicate.
Snake grass, too, is invasive and best contained as a pond, or marginal, plant, which can puncture pond liners.