What is horsetail?

(Equisetum species)
Horsetail potted plant, image: K. Bunn
  • Horsetail is a pasture and crop weed and can also invade native vegetation.
  • Horsetail is a declared weed in Tasmania under the Tasmanian Weed Management Act 1999. The importation, sale and distribution of horsetail are prohibited in Tasmania.

How to identify horsetail

  • Horsetails are very ancient, non-flowering perennial (long-lived) herbs growing to 60 cm high.
  • There are two types of stem. The fertile stems appear in early spring, are whitish in colour, rather succulent, unbranched, growing to about 30 cm tall and 8 mm in diameter and terminating in a spore-producing cone. The sterile stems grow to about 50 cm tall and up to 5 mm diameter. They are branched, hollow and grooved, green in colour and with whorls of 6 to 18 leaves. The sterile stems first appear in late spring after the fertile stems.
  • Horsetail has tuber-bearing, hairy rhizomes (underground stems) which in a large infestation can form a layered mass up to 30 metres across and 5 metres deep.
  • Horsetail stems die back to the rhizomes each winter and regenerate the following spring.
  • If you suspect you have seen this plant it is important to report it to your DPIPWE Regional Weed Management Officer on 1300 368 550 for confirmation.
Horsetail plant with cones, image: New South Wales AgricultureHorsetail spore producing cone or stobilus, photo: Stephen Welsh, DPIPWE
Image top: Horesetail potted plant, image: K. Bunn
Images above, left to right: Horsetail plant with cones, copyright: New South Wales Agriculture; Horsetail spore producing cone or stobilus, image: Stephen Welsh, DPIPWE

Horsetail in Tasmania

  • Horsetail is not widely distributed in Tasmania but is reported occasionally as a weed of wet areas and ponds in domestic gardens. Horsetail occasionally appears in the nursery and herbal trade.
  • Horsetail can invade crops, pastures and native vegetation. Heavy infestations can reduce crop yields and pasture productivity, as well as poison stock.

What is the legal status of horsetail in your area?

Detailed management and control guidelines for horsetail can be found in the Horsetail Control Guide. For further information see DPIPWE's Weed Links and Resources.

See also
Horsetail Control Guide
Horsetail Statutory Weed Management Plan
Weed Links and Resources

Other useful links
Pest Genie
Weeds in Australia - Weed Management Guide

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