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Equisetum arvense

Photosynthetic summer foliage
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pteridophyta
Class: Equisetopsida
Order: Equisetales
Family: Equisetaceae
Genus: Equisetum
Species: E. arvense
Binomial name
Equisetum arvense
Linnaeus, 1753

Equisetum arvense, the Field Horsetail or Common Horsetail, is a herbaceous perennial plant, native throughout the arctic and temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. It has separate sterile non-reproductive and fertile spore-bearing stems, growing from a perennial underground rhizomatous stem system. The fertile stems are produced in early spring and are non-photosynthetic, while the green sterile stems start to grow after the fertile stems have wilted, and persist through the summer until the first autumn frosts.[1][2]

The sterile stems are 10–90 cm tall and 3–5 mm diameter, with jointed segments around 2–5 cm long with whorls of side shoots at the segment joints; the side shoots have a diameter of about 1 mm. Some stems can have as many as 20 segments. The fertile stems are succulent-textured, off-white, 10–25 cm tall and 3–5 mm diameter, with 4–8 whorls of brown scale leaves, and an apical brown spore cone 10–40 mm long and 4–9 mm broad.[1]

It has a very high diploid number of 216 (108 pairs of chromosomes).[1]

The specific name arvense is derived from the Latin arvensis, meaning "from the meadow, field or grassland."


The plant contains several substances which can be used medicinally. It is rich in the minerals silicon (10%), potassium, and calcium. The buds are eaten as a vegetable in Japan and Korea in spring time. All other Equisetum species are toxic.

In polluted conditions, it may synthesize nicotine.[3] Externally it was traditionally used for chilblains and wounds.[4] It was also once used to polish pewter and wood (gaining the name pewterwort) and to strengthen fingernails. It is also an abrasive. It was used by Hurdy-Gurdy players to dress the wheels of their instruments by removing resin build up.[5]

It is used in biodynamic farming to make the "silica" soil preparation. (BD 508) Equisetum in particular is used because silicon reduces the effects of excessive water around plants that would lead to fungus. It is the high percentage of silica in the plant that works on lowering the impact of moisture.[6]

Equisetum arvense herb has been used in the traditional Austrian medicine internally as tea, or externally as baths or compresses, for treatment of disorders of the skin, locomotor system, kidneys and urinary tract, rheumatism and gout.[7]

Invasive species

Equisetum arvense was introduced into New Zealand in the 1920s and has been classed as an invasive species since the mid-1990s.[8] It is listed on the National Pest Plant Accord preventing its sale, spread and cultivation.


External links

  • at Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN)
  • Une entreprise en procès pour avoir commercialisé de la prêle (French)
  • Horsetail at Medline
  • Field Horsetail at Biosecurity New Zealand

  • Washington Native Plant Society
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