Horsetail Plant Facts

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Common horsetail
Common horsetail (Image: horsetail image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com)

The Horsetail plant (family: Equisetaceae; genus: Equisetum; species: hyemale, arvense, palustre), is a common sight in the woods and hills of Asia, Europe, Canada and the United States. A perennial, stalk-like plant, horsetail is considered an ancient, or primitive, plant. While it is used as an ornamental in gardens, horsetail also offers health benefits.

Features

The main feature of a horsetail is its hollow, circular, stems, which have an average width of 1/4- to 1/2-inch. The stems do not produce leaves of any type, but may have small, stem-like, branches. The average height of a stem is anywhere between 36 and 60 inches. The stem is evergreen, and its color falls between light to dark-green. The stem body, which resembles that of a young bamboo stalk, is segmented.

Habitat and Climate

A horsetail prefers damp and wet areas, specifically around river and stream banks and swamp-like environments. The horsetail can thrived in varied climates: full sun with little to not shade, to an areahaving equal sun and shade.

Pests and Diseases

The horsetail grows and spreads vigorously, and is not susceptible to diseases or pests.

Problems

Because the horsetail is durable, and spreads quickly, it can be considered an invasive species, although an official tag has not been given to it. Horsetail can poison animals if ingested. The species palustre is especially harmful, as it transfers toxic alkaloids to whatever animals ingests it.

Benefits

Horsetail, because of its active ingredients silicic acid, phytosterol, beta-sitosterol, malic acid, vitamin C, volatile oil, and potassium salts, is considered an antimicrobial, antiseptic, and can prevent inflammation. Horsetail can be made into a tea, or taken in extract form. When ingested, horsetail can aid digestion problems, renal disorders, bronchitis and pneumonia, arthritis, head aches and tiredness. Horsetail extract, added to a shampoo, can help prevent dandruff.

Considerations

When considered as an ornamental, the soil prepared for the horsetail should match a pH level between neutral (6.6 to 7.5) to mildly acidic (6.1 to 6.5). Horsetail can be ideal for a fish pond: the stem portions that are below the water line provide a location for small invertebrates to live, which can serve as food for fish.

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