Horsetail Control Guide

Do's and don'ts of horsetail control

Horsetail potted plant, image: K. Bunn 


  • Horsetail is difficult to eradicate. Management will require a planned control program;
  • Contact a DPIPWE Regional Weed Management Officer on 1300 368 550 to confirm plant identity and help you plan a control program;
  • Consider the impact of your control methods on off-target species, especially if herbicides are used;
  • Ensure machinery and equipment is washed down between sites or prior to contractors leaving site;
  • Carefully time your use of herbicide for best results;
  • Revisit and regularly inspect the site and ensure follow-up is undertaken; and
  • Use a combination of different control methods.


  • Don't introduce horsetail to horsetail-free areas (e.g. by failing to wash down machinery and equipment between sites);
  • Don't start your control program without first planning your approach;
  • Don't allow horsetail to produce spore before treatment;
  • Don't rely on one attempt at removal - follow-up is essential;
  • Don't rely on just one control method.

Spread of horsetail

  • Horsetail spread is mainly by vegetative means. The deep rhizome system produces starch-filled tubers which bud off and produce new stems throughout the growing season.
  • New plants also form from rhizome fragments produced by cultivation and road-grading in infested areas, and through the cartage of contaminated soil.
  • Some spread also occurs via spores being carried by wind and water.


Physical removal

  • Small infestations of horsetail, if caught early enough, may be removed by digging out all plant material, including the rhizomes. In Tasmania infestations of scouringrush horsetail (E. hyemale) have been eradicated by excavation followed by deep burial of the material onsite.
  • For established infestations, physical removal by digging, slashing or mowing is not likely to be effective as horsetail quickly regenerates from any fragments of buried rhizome and tubers left behind in the soil.


  • Mulching with a thick layer of leaf compost or black plastic can provide some benefit if maintained for long periods, but is unlikely to permanently remove an infestation.


  • Cultivation of the site is not effective as horsetail quickly regenerates from the buried rhizome and tubers.


  • Burning the above-ground horsetail is not effective as the buried rhizome and tuber material is not destroyed.

Chemical control

  • Horsetail is a deep rooted perennial. New shoots originate from rhizomes growing underground. The plant has little leaf area making it difficult to apply foliar herbicide and a high silica content which interferes with the uptake of many herbicides. Herbicide control of horsetail requires careful planning and advice.
  • No herbicides are registered for use on horsetail in Tasmania. Where new infestations are confirmed, consult a DPIPWE Regional Weed Management Officer (1300 368 550) for help in planning eradication. This may include the provision of an off-label permit to allow herbicide application to this species.
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