At a Glance: Succulent, hollow, jointed stems with whorls of branches.
|Sun/Shade Tolerance||Hydrology||Elevation Range||
full sun > 80%
mostly sunny 60%-80%
partial sun and shade 40%- 60%
mostly shady 60%-80%
full shade > 80%
Wetland Indicator Status:
Below 3000 meters.
well drained soils
nutrient rich soils
nutrient poor soils
Aquatic and Wetland:
Ponds or lakes
Swales or wet ditches
Seasonally inundated areas
Marshes or swamps
Aquatic bed wetlands
Seeps, springsShorelines and Riparian:
Streams or rivers
Stream or river banks
In or near saltwater
Coastal dunes or beachesRocky or Gravelly Areas:
Slide areasSub-alpine and Alpine:
Forests and Thickets:
Forests and woods
Old growth forests
Forest edges, openings, or clearings
ThicketsMeadows and Fields:
Pastures or fields
Meadows or grassy areas
Mossy areasDisturbed Areas:
|(data not available)|
|Ethnobotanical Uses and Other Facts||
Material Uses: The silicated stems were used by Native Americans (and still used by some people today) to start hand-drilled fires.
Food Uses: Some people cook and eat the young fertile shoots as a sort of asparagus substitute, its best to eat other early spring wild plants. Ancient Romans ate young, fertile shoots as if they were asparagus. They also used them to make tea and as a thickening powder.
Toxicity: Toxic to horses..
Ecological Importance: Often exists in thick stands of shoots that can choke other plants. Requires prolonged effort to remove from sites due to rhizomes. The fertile stems of common horsetail appear in early spring before the vegetative stems have grown tall enough to block spore dispersal by the wind. The spores have appendages on them that curl when wetted and uncurl when dried, which helps disperse the spores and move them deeper in the soil.
Name Info: arvense means of the fields. Horsetails are named for a fanciful resemblance between a horses tail and the plants sterile green stems with whorls of wire-like branches.
Interesting Facts: One of the most widespread plants in the world. Often considered a bad garden weed. Horsetails, also known as scouring rushes, have silica in their tissues, which makes them gritty. A ton of horsetails can accumulateas much as 4.5 ounces of gold in its cells, but profitable harvesting is impossible. Can be used as an emery board substitute or crumple in your hands to make a gentle scour, like fine-textured sandpaper, for dishes. Herbalists have used it, though not to a great extent, to heal broken bones. The first vascular plant to send green shoots up through the debris of the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens.
- Cooke, S.S. A Field Guide to the Common Wetland Plants of Western Washington and Northwetern Oregon. Seattle Audubon Society and Washington Native Plant Society. Page 380.
- Guard, B.J. 1995. Wetland Plants of Oregon & Washington. Lone Pine Publishing. Page 195.
- Hickman, J.C., ed. 1993. The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California. University of California Press. Page 95.
- Hitchcock, C.L., A. Cronquist. 1973. Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press. Page 44.
- Jacobson A.L. 2001. Wild Plants of Greater Seattle. Published by author. Page 372.
- Lyons, C., W. Merilees. Trees and Shrubs to Know in Washington and British Columbia. Lone Pine Publishing. Page 344.
- Pojar, J., A. Mackinnon. 1994. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Lone Pine Publishing. Page 430.
- Taylor, R.J., G.W. Douglas. 1995. Mountain Plants of the Pacific Northwest. Mountain Press Publishing Company. Page 8.
- Whitson, T.D., ed. 2001. Weeds of the West. University of Wyoming. Page 306.
The landscaping and restoration information provided on this page is taken from the Starflower Foundation Image Herbarium. All photographs © Starflower Foundation unless otherwise noted.