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Home > Weeds > Field Horsetail

Field Horsetail—Equisetum arvense

A persistent weed in cultivated land, pastures and roadsides. It is also called scouring rush—it has a high silica content in its leaves, which makes it useful to scour pans. Once established it is very difficult to eradicate. It can be poisonous to animals, causing illness.

field horestail shoots stem of field horsetail field horsetail field horsetail in field
Pale brown, slender, jointed fertile shoots appear in the spring and grow 4 to 30 inches tall. They produce spores on a 1 to 4 inch pinecone-like fruiting head. Green, segmented sterile stems appear later. These stems have whorls of pine-needle-like branches and resemble a bottle-brush. They grow 4 to 30 inches tall. Reproduction is by spores, but more extensively by creeping rhizomes (horizontal underground stems) which are generally 5 feet, but can be up to 20 feet, below ground. Commonly found on shaded, moist soil in meadows, along roadsides, in ditches and thickets, along stream banks, and at the edges of swamp.

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[Photos, left to right: Gil Wojciech, Polish Forest Research Institute,; Richard Old, XID Services, Inc.,; John Cardina, The Ohio State University,; Ohio State Weed Lab Archive, The Ohio State University,]

It is the policy of the State of Maine to minimize reliance on pesticides. The Maine Department of Agriculture and the Maine IPM Council encourage everyone to practice integrated pest management and to use pesticides only as a last resort. The mention of pesticides in the fact sheets linked to these pages does not imply an endorsement of any product. Be sure that any product used is currently registered and follow all label directions.