forb with aerial, jointed stems, which occur in two different forms.
A single, simple, cone-bearing stem grows in early spring, and a
vegetative, non-fertile stem grows after the first. This second
stem has many whorls of slender, green-jointed branches. Roots are
tuber-bearing and rhizomatous.
lacks flowers, but has a single cone, ¾ to 1 ½ inches
by spores, which look like a light yellow powder.
and scale-like, often non-green, whorled, and united at the base
to form a sheath around the stem.
horsetail occurs in woods, fields, meadows and swamps, and moist
soils alongside streams, rivers, and lakes, and in disturbed areas.
Field horsetail usually occurs on moist sites but can also be found
on dry and barren sites such as roadsides, borrow pits, and railway
Field horsetail is sensitive to moisture stress; drought conditions
result in a reduction in the production of new shoots.
is not an important range forage for livestock, and excessive amounts
(more than 20 percent) in hay can cause scours, paralysis, and death
in horses. Usually animals avoid the plant.
Native Americans and early settlers used tea made from field horsetail
as a diuretic. Field horsetail was used as a cough medicine for
horses. Dyes for clothing, lodges, and porcupine quills were made
from field horsetail. It was used for scouring and polishing objects.
The young shoots were eaten either cooked or raw.
Silica extracted from field horsetail is utilized for manufacture
of remineralizing and diuretic medicinal products. Other potential
uses of biogenic silica include industrial applications (abrasives,
toothpaste, protective cloth, optical fibers, thickeners for paint,
etc.), detergents, and cleaners. Leaf-odor constituents were used
widely in the 1970's in perfumes but are little used now. These
constituents can be used as food flavors and flavor enhancers, and
as animal repellants.