field horsetail

(Equisetum arvense)

Conservation Status
field horsetail
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FAC - Facultative


FAC - Facultative

  Northcentral & Northeast

FAC - Facultative


Field horsetail is an erect, bushy perennial that rises on separate fertile and unfertile stems from long, branched, creeping rhizomes with fleshy tubers. The rhizomes are similar to the aerial stems but are not hollow. They extend to a depth of 40 or more. The tubers are ¼ to ½ in diameter and are arranged singly or in pairs along the rhizomes.

Fertile stems are produced in early spring, late April to early May. They are erect, 4 to 8 tall, up to in diameter, unbranched, brittle, and succulent. They resemble an asparagus sprout but are brownish because they lack chlorophyll. The leaves are reduced in size, fused together for part of their length, and appressed against the stem, forming a collar-like sheath around the nodes. The sheaths are ½ to ¾ long. They have fewer than 14 large, 3 16 to long, dark brown to black teeth along the top rim. The teeth may be separate or they may be stuck together, but not fused, into more than 4 small groups. A solitary, spore-bearing cone is borne on a stalk at the end of the stem. The cone is 3 16 to 1 long, circular in cross-section, elliptic in long section, and rounded at the top. It is the same brownish color as the stem the stalk to which it is attached. It is covered with spore-bearing tubercles. The tubercles are darker brown to black with white markings. After the spores are shed the fertile stems die back.

Infertile stems are produced in late spring, after the fertile stems have wilted, and die back in the fall. They are erect, 6 to 24 tall, 1 16 to 3 16 in diameter, hollow, and green. The central cavity is about ¼ the diameter of the stem. The stems have 4 to 14 vertical ridges, though they usually have no fewer than 10 ridges. The ridges are rough to the touch but do not have silica deposits. The stems are segmented by up to 20 nodes about 1 apart. At the top of all but the uppermost segment is an appressed, ring-like sheath. The sheaths are 3 16 to long, green, with a narrow black band at the base and wider black band at the tip. At the top rim of the sheath are 4 to 14 brown teeth, the number of teeth equaling the number of stem ridges. The teeth are about 1 16 to long. They may be separate but are often fused together at the tip in pairs. They are persistent, remaining after maturity.

A whorl of slender branchlets is produced at each node. The branchlets are usually 4-angled, rarely 3-angled, solid, ascending or sometimes horizontal, never drooping, and usually do not themselves branch. Both 3-angled and 4-angled branchlets may occur on the same stem. Like the stems, the branchlets have segments with sheaths. The first segment of each branchlet is longer than the sheath below the node from which it extends. The branchlet sheath has only 3 or 4 teeth along the top rim, the number of teeth equaling the number of branchlet ridges. The teeth taper gradually to a narrow tip. By mid-summer the branchlets may become as long as the stem.




Sterile stems 6 to 24

Fertile stems 4 to 8


Similar Species


Meadow horsetail (Equisetum pratense) has fertile stems that are initially yellowish-brown and unbranching, but then turn green and sprout branches after the spore-producing cones have disappeared. The stems have short, pointed, epidermal projections made of silica. The branches are 3-sided and horizontal to drooping.

Woodland horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum) has branches that are themselves branched. It is the only horsetail in Minnesota with compound branches. The teeth of the leaf sheaths are reddish brown.


Moist to moderately dry.




Late April to early May


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 24, 28, 29, 30.








Common and widespread

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Polypodiophytina  
  Class Polypodiopsida (ferns)  
  Subclass Equisetidae (horsetails)  


Equisetales (horsetails)  


Equisetaceae (horsetail)  


Equisetum (horsetails)  
  Subgenus Equisetum  

Monotypic genus, family, and order
There are 15 species of Equisetum, which is the only living genus in the family Equisetaceae, which is the only family in the order Equisetales, which is the only order in the class Equisetopsida.

The genus Equisetum is divided into two subgenera, Equisetum and Hippochaete. Field horsetail is one of the eight species in the subgenus Equisetum. Six of those eight species are found in North America. Five are found in Minnesota.

Living fossil
The history of Equisetum has been traced 300 million years to the Cretaceous period, and possibly to the Triassic period. That could make Equisetum the oldest living genus of vascular plants.


Subordinate Taxa






Equisetum arvense var. alpestre

Equisetum arvense var. boreale

Equisetum arvense var. campestre

Equisetum arvense var. riparium

Equisetum boreale

Equisetum calderi

Equisetum saxicola


Common Names


The stems are regularly branched, the branches appearing in a whorl at each stem node. This gives the plant the appearance of a horse’s tail, giving rise to the common name “horsetail”.



common horsetail

field horsetail


horse pipes



jointed rush

mare’s tail





snake grass


western horsetail













Ending in a short, abrupt, flexible point.



The small swelling of the stem from which one or more leaves, branches, or buds originate.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.



Having thick leaves, stems, or roots that store water. Succulent tissues appear fleshy externally and juicy internally.



An underground root (as with dahlias) or stem (as with potatoes), thickened by the accumulation of reserved food (usually starch), which serves for food storage and vegetative propagation.

Visitor Photos

Share your photo of this plant.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption.



Not sure if horsetails are a plant or category of themselves.

    field horsetail      

Infertile Shoot

    field horsetail   field horsetail  
    field horsetail   field horsetail  

Fertile Shoot

    field horsetail   field horsetail  
    field horsetail   field horsetail  


    field horsetail      



  Equisetum arvense
Susanne Wiik
  Equisetum arvense  

Åkersnelle, Field Horsetail

  Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)  
  Equisetum arvense HORSETAIL
Frank Mayfield
  Equisetum arvense HORSETAIL  
  Equisetum arvense

Published on May 11, 2013

  Equisetum arvense ( with translation text )
fidel socias martinez

Published on May 24, 2012

· Plants of future (

· GRIN - Taxonomic information (




Visitor Videos

Share your video of this plant.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach a video, a YouTube link, or a cloud storage link.


Other Videos
  科学映像館 Equisetum arvense ツクシ・(スギナ)

Uploaded on Sep 8, 2008

撮影・編集 オムニ・サイエンスネット omni/sciencenet ■ 配信責・尾高俊夫

▲科学映像館 Equisetum arvense ツクシ・(スギナ)

  Field Horsetail: Overview
NZ Landcare Trust

Published on Mar 3, 2014

No description available.

  Field Horsetail / Common horsetail (Equisetum arvense) - 2014-04-22

Published on Apr 25, 2014

Equisetum arvense, the Field Horsetail or Common Horsetail, is a herbaceous perennial plant.

Heermoes (Equisetum arvense) is een plant uit de paardenstaartenfamilie (Equisetaceae). De plant wordt ook wel 'roobol', 'akkerpaardenstaart' of 'unjer' genoemd.




Visitor Sightings

Report a sighting of this plant.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Be sure to include a location.

Location: Lake Shore

Not sure if horsetails are a plant or category of themselves.

field horsetail  

Afton State Park

Avon Hills Forest SNA, North Unit

Banning State Park

Big Woods Heritage Forest WMA

Blackhoof River WMA

Blaine Wetland Sanctuary

Blue Devil Valley SNA

Blue Mounds State Park

Boot Lake SNA

Brownsville Bluff SNA

Bur Oak WMA

Butternut Valley Prairie SNA

Butterwort Cliffs SNA

Camden State Park

Cannon River Wilderness Area

Cedar Mountain SNA

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park

Clifton E. French Regional Park

Cottonwood River Prairie SNA

Crosby Farm Regional Park

Des Moines River SNA

Englund Ecotone SNA

Falls Creek SNA

Felton Prairie SNA, Bicentennial Unit

Flandrau State Park

Franconia Bluffs SNA

Glendalough State Park

Glynn Prairie SNA

Great River Bluffs State Park

Greenleaf Lake SRA

Gustafson’s Camp SNA

Hastings SNA

Hayes Lake State Park

Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie

Holthe Prairie SNA

Hyland Lake Park Reserve

Hythecker Prairie SNA

Iona’s Beach SNA

Iron Horse Prairie SNA

Jay Cooke State Park

John Peter Hoffman Spring Brook Valley WMA

Joseph A. Tauer Prairie SNA

Kasota Prairie

Keller Regional Park

La Salle Lake SNA

Lake Bronson State Park

Lake Byllesby Regional Park

Lake Carlos State Park

Lake Maria State Park

Lake Rebecca Park Reserve

Lundblad Prairie SNA

Lutsen SNA

Maplewood State Park

Margherita Preserve-Audubon Prairie

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park

Mille Lacs Moraine SNA

Mille Lacs WMA

Minneopa State Park

Minnesota Valley NWR, Chaska Unit

Minnesota Valley NWR, Rapids Lake Unit

Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area, Lawrence Unit

Mississippi River County Park

Moose Lake State Park

Mound Prairie SNA

Mound Spring Prairie SNA, North Unit

Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve

Myhr Creek Ridge SNA

Myre-Big Island State Park

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Spieker Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Touch the Sky Prairie Unit

Old Mill State Park

Ordway Prairie

Oronoco Prairie SNA

P.N. and G.M. Nelson Wildlife Sanctuary

Partch Woods SNA

Paul Bunyan Savanna

Phelps Lake WMA

Pin Oak Prairie SNA

Pine Bend Bluffs SNA

Prairie Coteau SNA

Prairie Creek WMA, Koester Prairie Unit

Prairie Creek Woods SNA

Prairie Smoke Dunes SNA

Racine Prairie SNA

Regal Meadow

Ritter Farm Park

River Terrace Prairie SNA

River Warren Outcrops SNA

Robert Ney Memorial Park Reserve

Rockville County Park

Roscoe Prairie SNA

St. Croix State Park

Santee Prairie SNA

Savage Fen SNA

Savanna Portage State Park

Schaefer Prairie

Schoolcraft State Park

Sedan Brook SNA

Seminary Fen SNA

Seven Mile Creek County Park

Seven Sisters Prairie

Shooting Star Prairie SNA

Sibley State Park

Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods SNA

Spring Creek Prairie SNA

Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center

Sunfish Lake Park

Tiedemann WMA

Town Hall Prairie

Twin Lakes SNA

Twin Valley Prairie Addition

Uncas Dunes SNA

Verlyn Marth Memorial Prairie SNA

Vermillion Highlands Research Recreation and WMA

Vermillion River WMA

Whitetail Woods Regional Park

Whitney Island SNA

Wild Indigo SNA

Wild River State Park

Wolsfeld Woods SNA

Woodbury WMA

Woodland Trails Regional Park







Last Updated:

© All rights reserved.

About Us

Privacy Policy

Contact Us