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Products > Equisetum hyemale
Equisetum hyemale - Horsetail
Image of Equisetum hyemale
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Grass-like
Family: Equisetaceae (Horsetails)
Origin: North America
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: NA
Bloomtime: Not Significant
Synonyms: [Equisetum hibernale]
Height: 4-6 feet
Width: Spreading
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: <15 F
May be Poisonous  (More Info): Yes
Equisetum hyemale (Horsetail) - This vertical, rush-like evergreen spreading plant spreads by rhizomes and produces branch-less, hollow corrugated stems with black bands, which are actually tiny leaves, that ring the nodes. It can reach to 5 to 6 feet in height, though usually seen closer to 3 to 4 feet. It is often thought of as a hardy perennial but is technically a fern ally with ancestors dating back to the Carboniferous period of the Paleozoic Era, at which time the fossil record shows that they grew over 40 feet tall with the diameter of a large tree trunk. Similar to ferns, Equisetum have no flowers, rather they reproduce by vegetative methods (spreading rhizomes) or by emission of spores from spore-bearing cones, called strobili. It will grow well in full sun or shade, with occasional to regular irrigation and is extremely hardy (to -40F). Its vigorous growth habit should be considered before planting it without measures taken to control its spread as it can be quite invasive. It can be trimmed to make a boxy geometric foundation plant or allowed to be more natural and can be used in ponds in water up to 4 inches deep, at the edge, or plant directly in the ground with occasional water (less water helps contain rampant spread). Horsetails show promise for use as ground covers for dikes, road cuts, abandoned strip mines and other bare areas and since they can absorb heavy metals, it may be useful as biological monitors of water or soil contamination by zinc, cadmium and lead. However, it is reported that horsetails can cause a serious poisoning, called equisetosis, in horses and for this reason may not be suitable for use around livestock. In its natural habit this plant is most often found in moist sandy or gravelly soils below 8,300 ft throughout Eurasia and North America. The name for the genus comes from the Latin words 'equus' meaning "horse" and 'setum' meaning "bristle" or "hair" in reference to the way some of the branched species appear like a horse's tail. The cylindrical and hollow stems retain large quantities of silica, hence another common name Scouring Rush, which give them an abrasive quality which was used for centuries to smooth the shafts of arrows, polish suits of armor, fine finish work in watch making and cabinetry, scour barrels, and filing and polishing metals. This plant is considered a noxious weed in some locations and its importation into Australia and New Zealand is prohibited. 

This information about Equisetum hyemale displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.