This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
No trace of the Mouse-tail has been found in beds earlier than recent accumulations. It is a plant of the Warm Temperate Zone, found in Europe, W. Asia, N. Africa, and has been introduced in ballast into America and other countries. It is found in S. England, in S. Devon, S. Somerset, Wilts, Dorset, Isle of Wight, Hants, Sussex, Kent, Surrey, Essex, Herts, Middlesex, Berks, Oxford. Bucks, the whole of E. Anglia, W. Gloucestershire, Hereford, Worcester, Warwick, Stafford, Lincolnshire, Leicester, Notts, Derby, Chester, N.E., Mid W., N.W. Yorks, Durham, and Northumberland, and thus ranges from the last county to Kent and Devon, as well as in the Channel Islands.
The Mouse-tail, as almost implied by its name, is a diminutive plant, likely to be overlooked by all but the most observant. Its distribution shows that it is a plant of cultivated ground, coming up in cornfields, when the wheat is yet green, between the lines of grain It is fond of dry soil, and as such is a Xerophile, and though not confined to chalk districts is rather more abundant there than elsewhere. It has the grass habit, which may be regarded as an adaptive character here. It is also found in clover fields, and on the sides of paths in the dried-up pools where water has long accumulated. The Mouse-tail is associated with Plantain, Corn Buttercup.
It is a small, erect plant, with a fastigiate habit, i.e. with parallel ascending branches, the leaves, which are linear, expanded below, being clustered in a rosette, out erect, surrounding the taller receptacle, which resembles the mouse's tail, give it a plantain-like habit, in which again it resembles Isoetes, or even Limosella.
1 his plant is unlike any other British plant, or the three mentioned, in the appearance its ripe carpels present, a plantain also having a different flower. In the Mouse-tail it is yellow, and the petals are clawed. The flowers are borne on single scapes.
The sepals, 5-7, are closely parallel with the scape, and there is a scale at base. The Mouse-tail is 2-6 in. high. It is in flower from April to June. It is annual, coming up year by year in the same district.
The flowers are proterandrous, i.e. the anthers ripen first. After the anthers have withered, the top of the ovary elongates into a long cone and develops the stigmas. The elongation of the pistil axis makes possible the self-pollination of the neighbouring stigmas by means of the few anthers, which lie close around, the pollen emerging gradually by two lateral slits, the elongated axis (1- 1 1/4 in.) bringing fresh stigmas in contact with the anthers. The Mouse-tail is pollinated by flies, Diptera, Sciara, Chironomus, Scatope, Phora, Cecidomyia, Oscinis, Microphorus, Pteromalidae, Ichneumonidae, Haltica, Antho-myia, Melanostoma mellina.
The fruit of the Mouse-tail is dispersed by the plant's own special mechanism. The achenes or fruits are small, numerous, and dispersed by the falling of the fruits around the parent plant. The styles do not fall off.
The Mouse-tail is a sand plant, frequenting districts with a sand soil, derived chiefly from the older sandy formations, from which are derived sandy loam, or one inclined to be oolitic, not limy or gritty. It is also found on the chalk.
No fungal pests attack it, nor is it a food plant for insects. Dodonaeus invented the name Myosurus (Greek muos, mouse, and oura, tail) from the shape of the scape, while miniums is Latin for very small.
Mouse-tail and Blood Strange are its only names. Parkinson in the last connection refers to it as styptic, and says: "Blood-strange, I think corruptly from blood-staying". Essential Specific Characters: 4. Myosurus minimus, L. - Sepals 5, spurred, petals with filiform claw, tubular, honey gland at base, 5 stamens, carpels imbricate, borne on a long scape, the seed pendulous.
Photo. The Author - Mouse-tail (Myosurus minimus, L.)