A variety of plant species are found primarily along the edges of rivers and streams. Many of these plants require a constant supply of fresh water. Such bank-dwelling plants include common cattails, weeping willow trees and horsetails.
Common cattails (Typha latifolia) are rhizomatous plants often associated with marshy riverbanks, ponds and ditches. These plants send up long, erect leaves resembling 10-foot blades of grass. From May to July, they produce sausage-shaped brown flowers, which burst open in the autumn to release white, fluffy seeds that scatter on the winds. Red-winged blackbirds, Canada geese and mallards nest in cattail clumps. Muskrats use this plant for food and shelter.
Another plant commonly seen along riverbanks is the weeping willow tree (Salix babylonica). This tree is easily identified by its long, graceful arching limbs and slender, silvery leaves. It bears fuzzy catkins. Weeping willow trees reach a mature height of 30 to 40 feet.
Horsetails, or members of the Equisetum genus, also thrive on riverbanks. Horsetails are grasslike plants composed of segments like bamboo. These plants are known as living fossils, tracing their lineage back to the Carboniferous Age, more than 300 million years ago. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the horsetail species Equisetum arvense was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to heal wounds, ulcers, tuberculosis and kidney disease.
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