- Equisetum, from the Latin, equus, "horse", and seta,
"bristle, animal hair"
- sylvaticum, from the Latin, sylva, "woods, forest",
and aticus "habitat"; hence "growing in the woods, wild"
- Wood Horsetail, from its preferred habitat
- Other common names include: Sylvan Horsetail, Woodland Horsetail,
Prêle des Bois (Qué), Skogsfräken (Swe),
Skogsnelle (Nor), Skov-Padderok (Dan), Metsäkorte
(Fin), Skogelfting (Is), Wald-Schachtelhalm (Ger), Erdei
- 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: 17161
- Also known as Equisetum capillare
- A heavily branched, flat topped horsetail of wet places.
- Stems dimorphic, annual, erect.
- Sterile stem green, densely branched from the nodes, about
18" tall, with 10-18 surface ridges, the ridges usually with silica
spicules; central hollow usually more than ½ the stem diameter;
inter- nodes about 1½" long 1.5-3 mm in diameter; main stem
sheaths 5-10 mm long, the teeth coherent in usually 3-5 broad lobes,
reddish-brown, 3-5 mm long.
- Fertile stem initially unbranched and lacking chlorophyl; becoming
green and branched after spores are released and the cone withers and
falls away. Though looking very much like the sterile stems at this
point, they remain somewhat smaller but with larger sheaths (Measurements
other than height generally exceed those of the sterile stems) Leaf
sheaths 10-25 mm long, the teeth fused into reddish-brown lobes 4-15
- Branches rebranched, delicate, arching, spreading to recurved,
4-5 angled, in regular whorls, the first internode longer than the subtending
stem sheath, 5-9 mm long. Teeth narrow, pointed, spreading.
- Rhizomes shiny, light brown, smooth, covered with hairs, occasionally
bearing tubers. The extensive, creeping rhizomes may outweigh above ground
growth by a ratio of 100 to 1.
- Cone ¾"-1", borne on short stalk at tip of fertile
- Identifiable as Horsetail by the upright, hollow, jointed, cylindrical
stems with inconsequential and easily overlooked leaves.
- Distinguished from our other Horsetails by the elegant whorls
of slender, recurved branches, generally twelve or more branches to
a whorl, which are very about 5 inches long, quadrangular and beset
by several secondary whorls so that the plant resembles a miniature
- Field Marks
- compond branching; our only Horsetail in which the branches commonly
and regularly re-branch
- leaf sheaths; our only Horsetail with reddish brown sheaths
- Circumboreal, in North America south to Washington, northern Idaho,
northwestern Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Ohio, Kentucky,
- Eurasia south to the Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Crimea, and the
Caspian region, across Siberia to Manchuria, Korea, and Hokkaido.
- Lowland wet conifer forests, also common in mixed upland, dry conifer,
and deciduous forest habitats.
- Moist open woods, bogs, swamps, prairies, meadows, stream banks.
- An indicator of boreal and cool-temperate climates, and very moist
to wet, nitrogen-poor soils.
- Present in appropriate habitat through all successional stages to
- Aboveground stems of killed by fire.
- Survives repeated fires thanks to deeply buried, nearly indestructible
rhizomes, which penetrate well into mineral soil or clay, allowing rapid
revegetation even after severe fire.
- Invades recently burned areas in any stage of succession; colonizing
new burns through wind-dispersed spores.
- Trees: Balsam Fir (Abies
balsamea), Red Maple (Acer
rubrum), Paper Birch (Betula
papyrifera), Black Ash (Fraxinus
nigra), Green Ash (Fraxinus
pennsylvanica), Tamarack (Larix
laricina), White Spruce (Picea
glauca), Black Spruce (Picea
mariana), Jack Pine (Pinus
banksiana), Red Pine (Pinus
resinosa), White Pine (Pinus
strobus), Balsam Poplar (Populus
balsamifera), Quaking Aspen (Populus
tremuloides), Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa), White Cedar
- Shrubs: Speckled Alder (Alnus
incana), Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne
calyculata), Pipsisewa (Chimaphila
umbellata), Bunchberry (Cornus
canadensis), Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens), Creeping
Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula),
Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata), Labrador Tea (Ledum
groenlandicum), Twinflower (Linnaea
borealis), Swamp Dewberry (Rubus pubescens), Bebb Willow
(Salix bebbiana), Meadowsweet
(Spiraea alba), Late Low Blueberry (Vaccinium
angustifolium), Small Cranberry (Vaccinium
- Herbs: Water Plantains (Alisma spp.), Wild Sarsaparilla
(Aralia nudicaulis), Panicled
Aster (Aster lanceolatus), Large Leaf Aster (Aster
macrophyllus), Blue Bead Lily (Clintonia
borealis), Goldthread (Coptis
trifolia), Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium), Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum),
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), Orange Jewelweed (Impatiens
capensis), Canadian Wood Nettle (Laportea canadensis), Canada
Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense),
Cow Wheat (Melampyrum lineare), Naked Mitrewort (Mitella nuda),
Fringed Polygala (Polygala pauciflora), Arrow-leaved Tearthumb
(Polygonum sagittatum), Pickerel Reed (Pontederia
cordata), Arrowheads (Sagittaria spp.), Bur Reeds (Sparganium
spp.), Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), Starflower (Trientalis
borealis), Cattails (Typha spp.), Stinging Nettle (Urtica
dioica), Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides)
- Grasses: Bluejoint Reed Grass (Calamagrostis
canadensis), Carex lacustris, Carex lasiocarpa,
Few-seeded Sedge (Carex oligosperma), Carex pauciflora,
Carex pellita, Carex trisperma, Carex utriculata,
Spikerush (Eleocharis palustris), Eriophorum vaginatum,
Manna Grasses (Glyceria spp.), Giant Reed (Phragmites australis),
Marsh Bluegrass (Poa palustris), Bulrushes (Scirpus atrovirens,
Scirpus cyperinus), Wild Rice (Zizania palustris).
- Ferns: Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia
struthiopteris), Sensitive Fern (Onoclea
sensibilis), Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda
cinnamomea), Bracken Fern (Pteridium
aquilinium), Marsh Fern (Thelypteris palustris),
- Ground Covers: Fire Moss (Ceratodon
purpurea), Feathermosses (Hylocomium
schreberi), Sphagnum Mosses (Sphagnum spp.)
- Poisonous to humans and livestock
- Reproduces by spores and vegetatively by rhizomes
- Primarily reproduces by vegetative means; the majority of shoots
arise from rhizomes. Rhizome systems are extensive, deeply buried, and
extremely long-lived (perhaps several thousand years old).
- The most attractive of the native Horsetails because of its lacy appearance
- Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
- Cultural Requirements
- Shade to partial shade
- Soil moist to wet, slightly acidic
- Fertilization detrimental
- Good for naturalizing wet, woodland areas
- Available by mail order from specialty suppliers.
Last Updated on
26 February, 2004