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Common Horsetail Equisetum arvense

Phonetic Spelling
ek-wis-SEE-tum ar-VEN-see
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Common horsetail is an herbaceous, non-flowering perennial in the Equisetaceae (horsetail) family.  It is native to temperate regions in the Northern Hemisphere and throughout the arctic.  It is widely distributed in Eurasia and most of North America except for the lower southeast U.S.  Common horsetail develops thick weedy stands of slender, upright, coarse, unbranched shoots up to 2 feet tall that, when bunched together, resemble a horse’s tail. It can be found in savannas, prairies, roadsides, arable land, ditches and disturbed areas. This plant develops deciduous fertile and infertile shoots.  It reproduces by spores produced on a light-brown cone at the tip of a non-photosynthetic stem in early to mid-spring.  Sterile (vegetative) green photosynthetic stems appear after the spore-bearing stems wilt, then persist through summer until autumn frost. Spores are equipped with appendages, that curl or uncurl in response to moisture. This feature aids dispersion and helps spores move deeper into the soil. Common horsetail readily adapts to a wide range of conditions, but prefers full to partial sun, damp to dry conditions, and pH neutral to slightly basic soils. Its aggressive network of rhizomes can penetrate soils to a depth of 6 feet, making it difficult to eradicate once established.  Deep plowing may be necessary to remove rhizomes.This plant is considered toxic for livestock, particularly horses.

The genus name is from Latin equus (horse) and seta (bristle). The species name is from  arvum (ploughed), as this plant readily grows in disturbed soils.  Note that this plant should not be confused with other species in this genus, or with other plants with similar-sounding common names (such as marestail) that is not a member of this genus.

This plant is used horticulturally to make a fungicide for powdery mildew and blights.  It has been used historically in herbal medicines and veterinary uses, and in parts of Asia the buds are eaten as a vegetable.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  It is considered a weed in many areas where crops are grown.  It may be necessary to perform a deep plowing annually in an attempt to prevent rhizomes from spreading.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#weedy#stream banks#NC native#deer resistant#disturbed areas#native annual#food source spring#food source herbage#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#mammals#waterfowl#problem for horses#Audubon
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#weedy#stream banks#NC native#deer resistant#disturbed areas#native annual#food source spring#food source herbage#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#mammals#waterfowl#problem for horses#Audubon
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Equisetum
    Species:
    arvense
    Family:
    Equisetaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    It has been used as a remedy for a variety of ailments by Native Americans, and in ancient Roman, and Chinese medicine.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Temperate Northern Hemisphere
    Distribution:
    North America, Eurasia
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Edibility:
    The buds are eaten as a vegetable in parts of Asia
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Perennial
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3b, 3a, 4b, 4a, 5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10b, 10a, 11a, 11b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Description:
    No fruits. This plants reproduces via spores.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Description:
    No flowers.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Rough
    Leaf Type:
    Sheath
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Whorled
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are sheaths that surround the stem at each juncture of the non-fertile stem. They have several dark teeth at the top. The branchlets also have these scale-like leaves at the base with few teeth.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Green
    White
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Cross Section:
    Angular
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The sterile stem is green with whorled branches that are spreading to ascending. It has a hollow core but the side branches are solid and angular. The fertile spring stem is tan with a cone on top containing the spores that are white.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Attracts:
    Small Mammals
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Heavy Shade
    Wet Soil
    Problems:
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Thiamine deficiency: weakness, weight loss, staggers, tremors, death
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Thiaminase
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No