Equisetum arvense

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Common Horsetail: for more photos, see Sitka Nature Photo Gallery for Equisetum arvense
Common Horsetail (Equisetum arvense): Almost certainly common throughout the region in open or disturbed areas from low elevation to the subalpine. Extensive areas of the region have few or no collections of this species (perhaps because of its ubiquity).

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Local Notes

  • Sitka/Equisetum arvense: Widespread and common in open areas from sea level to subalpine. Often abundant at roadsides or other places of infrequent disturbance around town. (edit)

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Other References

  • Muller: gen; wet areas, open areas, common
  • Hall 2010: Common; alpine tundra, woods, beaches, lake margins and disturbed sites.

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Field Marks

  • Deciduous perennial to 2ft
  • Stems of 2 types: sterile branched and fertile unbranched
  • Fertile stems to 1ft, white to light brown
  • Both stem with whorls of 10-12 small tooth-like leaves
  • Sterile stems with whorls of narrow cylindrical branches
  • Fertile stems lacking branches
  • Spore bearing cones at apex of fertile stems
  • Cones to 1 inch long

Habitat: Moist to somewhat dry sites, including meadows, streambanks, forests, gardens, roadsides from low to mid elevations

Range: Through out the United States and Canada

Comments: There are several species of Horsetails that occur along the coast of the north Pacific. Common Scouring rush is a stout, unbranched evergreen plant. Variegated Horsetail is evergreen and unbranched, but slender. Swamp horsetail produces its stems annually, but the fertile and sterile stems are similar. The fertile stems of Common horsetail die back after the spores are mature. Meadow horsetail can be distinguished from common horsetail by the persistent fertile stems which turn green and develop branches as they mature. The stems of Common and other annual horsetails are produced annually from perennial underground stems. The green stems and branches, not the leaves are the sites where photosynthesis occurs. Horsetails are rough to the touch because of the silica contained in the stem tissue. The common name “scouring rush” comes from the use of horsetails stems to clean and polish metal.