Equisetum palustre

Marsh Horsetail

Marsh Horsetail, Photo courtesy Wisconsin State Herbarium and Emmet J. Judziewicz
Marsh Horsetail
Photo courtesy Wisconsin State Herbarium
and Emmet J. Judziewicz

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


  • Equisetum, from the Latin, equus, "horse", and seta, "bristle, animal hair"
  • palustre, from the Latin, palus, "bog"
  • Marsh Horsetail, from its preferred habitat, though rarely found in standing water
  • Other common names include: Kärrfräken (Swe), Myrsnelle (Nor), Kær-Padderok (Dan), Suokorte (Fin), Myrelfting (Is), Lidrus (Dut), Sumpf-Schachtelhalm (Ger), Prêle des Marais (Fr), Hvostch Bolotnyi (Rus), Cuiridin (Gaelic), Soo-osi, Konnaosi, Kuusk-jalg, Lips-hein, Lius-osjad (Estonia)


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Equisetophyta, the Horsetails
      • Class Equisetopsida, the Horsetails
        • Order Equisetales, the Horsetails
          • Family Equisetaceae, the Horsetails
            • Genus Equisetum, the Horsetails
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 17153


  • Heavily branched, flat topped horsetail of wet places.
  • Stems monomorphic, to 18", upright and usually branched, with internodes about 1" apart. Hollow center small, typically only 1/6-1/3 stem diameter. Vallecular canals (side channels) nearly as large as central hollow.
    • Sterile stems with long thin tapering tip rising above flat topped branches.
    • Fertile Stems extending 2-3 segments above topmost branch, topped with cone.
  • Leaf Sheaths elongated, 4-9 mm long x 2-5 mm wide, green with long (2-5 mm) narrow, black teeth, with white margins. Sheath segments and teeth have slight central grooves.
  • Branches numerous; smooth, unbranched, and hollow with 4-6 ridges; variable length, ascending and spreading, in regular whorls from the middle nodes only, to form flat topped, triangular silhouette. First branch segment much shorter than subsequent segments; sheath teeth narrow.
  • Cones 1" long, large and blunt tipped, on slender, relatively short stems; at the tips of fertile stems. Spores 30-45 µm in diameter
  • Rootstalk slender, shiny, black to dark brown, deeply creeping and branching; occasionally bearing tubers.


  • Identifiable as Horsetail by the upright, hollow, jointed, cylindrical stems with inconsequential and easily overlooked leaves.
  • Distinguished from Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense), which it somewhat resembles, by
    • fewer grooves on the stem
    • absence of special, cone-bearing fertile stems. Except for the very tip, the fertile and sterile stems are the same.
  • Field Marks
    • branches, often numerous, forming flat top silhouette
    • initial branch segment much reduced in length
    • cones borne on branched stems
    • narrow central hollow of stem in combination with large side channels.


  • Alaska to Newfoundland, south to New York, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and California.
  • Eurasia south to the Mediterranean, Greece, Turkey, Kashmir, Tibet, China, and Japan.


  • Along cold streams, ponds, and lakeshores; in fens and marshes; wooded swamps. Not often actually growing in water.
  • Sun and semi-shade






  • Reproduces by spores and vegetatively by rhizomes
  • Primarily reproduces by vegetative means; the majority of shoots arise from rhizomes.


  • Division most successful method.


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • Cultural Requirements
    • Sun to part-shade
    • Average soil
    • Constant moisture
    • Fertilization unnecessary
  • Good for the bog garden
  • Available by mail order from specialty suppliers



Valley Internet Company
Return to Home Page
Send Feedback to Webmaster

Last Updated on 26 February, 2004