There's a non-descript little reed that grows in the shady lowlands of the woods that I usually ignore until the time of the black and white world of winter when I am able to cross the frozen river. Then I walk the deer maze trails through a miniature forest of 24 inch drinking straws. I've always wondered what the name of this plant was and recently uprooted one and took it to the local DNR station. The first guy I asked said, "Show it to Larry, he's our plant guy." Larry was in his cubicle, busy on his computer. "Horsetail," he said, barely glancing at my sample. "This doesn't look like the horsetails I've seen," I said, but Larry didn't seem to hear me. The horsetail I knew was fernlike. This was more of a rat tail.
Someone had told me about an app that can identify plants. I checked the app store. One app was free and had three stars. The other cost ninety-nine cents and had five stars. I got the free one and took a picture of my sample. "Don't know," said the app, but it did make some wild guesses. I took a picture of some kale. "Salad lettuce." How about this blooming Christmas cactus. "Christmas cactus." One out of three isn't very good. "Would you like to ask an expert? Only $1.98." What the heck, I submitted my pic and password. "Please submit another pic from a different angle." I took a full length pic next to a ruler for scale. A couple of hours later the expert replied: "Since your picture has nothing to indicate scale, we can't tell what you have, but here are some possibilities for your area." Guess my second pic never arrived. My expert listed four types of horsetail of various heights. Horsetail number two, the Field Horsetail is 28" tall. So where's the fern? I checked Wiki. The female field horsetail, what I had, produces spores which then grow into the ferny males. The ferns can be made into a tea, good for diarrhea.
A bit later I got an email from the app itself, asking me to rate this app. I think I'll leave them guessing.
Horsetails in Winter