Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Northeast Wetland Flora
Field Office Guide to Plant Species
Equisetum sylvaticum L.
- Family: Horsetail (Equisetaceae)
- Spores: April-June
- Field Marks: This species produces both fertile and sterile stems at the same time. The
fertile stem develops both terminal reproductive cones and spreading green branches. The
sterile stem produces only spreading green branches. Most of the lateral branches on both
stems are doubly or triply branched.
- Habitat: Moist woods, damp thickets.
- Habit: Perennial herb from creeping, deep rhizomes.
- Stems: Of two types: fertile and sterile stems erect, smooth or rough to the touch, jointed,
up to 1 1/2 feet tall, bearing whorls of slender, often multi-branched branches, but only the
fertile stems producing a reproductive cone at the tip.
- Leaves: Reduced and united to form sheaths; sheaths flaring upward, with yellow-brown
teeth 3- to 4-lobed, the sheaths up to 1 inch long.
- Fruiting Cones: Borne on an elongated stalk, up to 1 inch long.
- Notes: These and other horsetails contain silica in the cell walls. This group of plants was
used by colonists as an abrasive to scour utensils.
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