RUSH; RUSHES. This material, which is used to some small extent in the arts, is the Equisetion Ayemale. The stem is very rough, with from fourteen to twenty slender furrows. It is a native of England, Scotland, and Ireland, as well as the continent of Europe ; but is almost unknown in the middle and southern English counties, and is only sparingly distributed anywhere. It appears to possess tannin, and to act as an astringent. It is supposed to be injurious to cows, and is said to cause their teeth to drop out ; but horses eat it with impunity. This plant, more than any other species, is used for the purposes of polishing. Lightfoot says, that in Northumberland the milk-maids scour their pails with it. Rush is also used for the purpose of polishing wood, bone, ivory, and various metals, particularly brass. It is brought into this, country from Holland, where it grows abundantly, and is sold in the shops of London under the name of Dutch Rush.
The well-known rushes of country places belong to a different genus of plants from the Dutch rush. They come under the genus fences; of which one species, the common soft rush, is to be found in most moist pastures, by the sides of streams, and under hedges. In some districts
these rushes are used by the poor as a substitute for candles. They are gathered in summer and autumn ; the largest and longest being deemed the best. They are kept in water until they are to be peeled ; which process consists in divesting the rush of its peel or rind, so as to leave one regular narrow rib from top to bottom, to support the pith. The rushes are then bleached on the dewy grass, and dried in the sun. These rush-piths are finally dipped into any kind of fat or grease, until they acquire a coating analogous to that of a candle. In the bacon districts of Hampshire, hog's fat is employed for this purpose. When White wrote his well-known ` Natural History of Selbourne, he strongly recommended this feature in domestic economy ; but it Is possible that the cheapening of candles has lessened the relative advantage of the more primitive system. Rushes are, however, more ordinarily used for plaiting into mats and chair-bottoms, and for con structing small toy baskets. The wicks of rushlights are made of the pith.