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Help! Mystery plant/fungus taking over garden

Hi - can anyone help me identify this strange plant/fungus I keep finding in my garden? It emerges from the ground in clusters with a deep root, usually around the roots of other plants. The stem eventually turns white and produces purple spores. This seems to be how it spreads. There is another type of stem that doesn't fruit but turns into a long spiky runner which eventually dries up, turns white and litters the garden. 

It's proving to be quite relentless, and one garden adjacent to ours (the source) has already been overrun. I've resorted to stomping on it and spraying it with weed killer whenever I see it, but it seems I'm currently fighting a losing battle! 

Here's a photo of the plant in the early stages:

I tried to take a photo of our unfortunate neighbour's garden too - the mystery plant has taken over! 


  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 20,101
    edited 17 April
    You are the proud owners of mare’s tail, horse tail or Equisetum to give it its Latin name.

    It’s been around for 100 million years. Homo sapiens has been toying around with your garden for about 100 thousand years.

    It will still be in your garden when you, I, your neighbour and everybody else has popped their clogs and gone off to the great greenhouse in the sky.

    Bash it on the head if it makes you feel any better.
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • BlueBirderBlueBirder Posts: 153
    Yup, Equisetum. It's actually a pretty amazing plant in lots of ways - as @pansyface says it's been around a long time, actually since 350 million years ago. In the Paleozoic, there were Equisetum species reaching 30m tall, so whenever I see it, I remind myself to be thankful that those ones didn't survive... :D
  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 15,853
    Keep pulling it up as soon as you see it. Don't let the fruiting bodies form.
    You don't stop doing new things because you get old, you get old because you stop doing new things. <3
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze South NottsPosts: 1,104
    The leaves are covered in a thick coating which means it will not respond to weed killer. 
  • Thanks everyone! I should have guessed it was marestail... don't think I'll ever eradicate it fully unless the adjacent gardens get it under control. But I'll persevere and pull it up whenever I see it - I've been treating the severed stems with weedkiller and that seems to be effective. Have also ordered some lime to raise the PH in the soil. Fingers crossed!! 
  • You can get rid if you work very hard but it will take a few years!
    Dig dig dig and pull it out, don't stop keep going. As time passes it will get less and less. You can treat it with weed killer but firstly have to break bruise the skin then treat it. Your neighbour will have to do the same if you want to succeed. Give yourself three years. 
  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,898
    My soil is extremely alkaline (7.5), and I still have it.  I bend it over with my foot and trod on it a bit to bruise the stems, then spray.  That kills it in that location for a minute.  It always pops up elsewhere.  I have far more trouble from bindweed, so I'm not overly fussed with it.. at least it's slower growing.  
    Utah, USA.
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