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Variegated Horsetail

Equisetum variegatum

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Plant Profile

Equisetaceae (Horsetail)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Ditches, mountains, riverbanks, sand dunes, waterside.
Flowerless. Horsetails reproduce by means of spores, not flowers.
Blunt pointed cones with spores ripening between March and June. The cones measure 3 or 4mm across.
The erect stems are dark green and have 4 to 10 ridges around the circumference. The leaves are reduced to a sheath around the stem. The sheaths are black above and green below. 3 to 12 whitish teeth with a black midrib. Variegated Horsetail is an overwintering species.
Other Names:
Alaskan Scouringrush, Variegated Scouring Rush.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Equisetum variegatum, commonly known as variegated horsetail or variegated scouring rush, is a perennial herbaceous plant that belongs to the Equisetaceae family. It is native to the Northern Hemisphere and is commonly found in Europe, Asia, and North America. The plant is known for its distinctive, variegated, green and yellow, jointed stem, which is rough to the touch due to the presence of silica crystals. It can grow up to 60 cm tall and prefers damp, well-drained soils, such as along the edges of rivers, streams, and ditches. The plant is commonly used as an ornamental plant, and also has medicinal properties. The plant is rich in silica, and the stems are used to scour and polish metal and wood. It is also used in traditional medicine as a diuretic and to treat kidney and bladder problems.


Variegated horsetail, also known as Equisetum variegatum, is a unique and striking plant that belongs to the family Equisetaceae. It is a perennial herbaceous plant that can grow up to 2 feet tall and spread up to 3 feet wide. This plant is native to Asia, Europe, and North America and is commonly found in wetlands, swamps, and other damp areas.

One of the most striking features of the variegated horsetail is its stems, which are jointed and hollow. The stems are light green in color and have black or brown bands around the joints. The stems are also covered with small scale-like leaves, giving the plant a unique appearance.

The variegated horsetail is a great addition to any garden or landscape, as it is a low-maintenance plant that requires very little care. It prefers moist soil and partial shade, making it an ideal plant for shady areas or along the edges of ponds or streams.

In addition to its ornamental value, the variegated horsetail also has medicinal properties. The plant contains silica, which is beneficial for the health of the hair, skin, and nails. It is also believed to have diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful for treating urinary tract infections and other inflammatory conditions.

However, it should be noted that the variegated horsetail can also be invasive, as it spreads through rhizomes and can quickly take over a garden if not controlled. Therefore, it is important to plant the variegated horsetail in a contained area or to regularly prune it to prevent it from spreading.

Variegated horsetail has been used for various purposes throughout history. In ancient times, it was used as a natural scrubbing brush to clean pots and pans due to its rough and abrasive texture. It was also used to polish wood and metal surfaces.

In traditional medicine, variegated horsetail has been used to treat a variety of ailments. It has been used as a diuretic to help flush out the urinary system and to reduce water retention. It has also been used to treat wounds and skin irritations due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

In addition to its medicinal uses, variegated horsetail is also used in landscaping and as an ornamental plant. Its unique appearance and low maintenance requirements make it a popular choice for gardens, ponds, and water features.

However, as mentioned earlier, variegated horsetail can be invasive and quickly take over a garden if not controlled. To prevent its spread, it is important to plant it in a contained area or regularly prune it. If left uncontrolled, it can compete with other plants for nutrients and water, and ultimately damage the ecosystem of the surrounding area.

Variegated horsetail is a fascinating plant with a rich history and diverse uses. Whether you're looking to add it to your garden or use it for medicinal purposes, it's important to keep in mind its potential to become invasive and take the necessary precautions to control its growth.

Variegated horsetail has a deep cultural significance in Japan, where it is known as "tsukushi". It is considered a symbol of strength, resilience, and longevity. The plant has been used in Japanese gardens for centuries, and it is often incorporated into bonsai and ikebana arrangements.

In addition to its cultural significance, variegated horsetail also has ecological value. It is an important component of wetland ecosystems, providing habitat for various wildlife species such as birds and insects. It also helps prevent erosion by stabilizing soil in wetland areas.

Variegated horsetail is also edible and has been used in traditional cuisine in some parts of the world. The young shoots of the plant are harvested in the spring and can be cooked and eaten like asparagus. The plant is rich in minerals such as silica, potassium, and calcium, making it a nutritious addition to the diet.

In terms of cultivation, variegated horsetail is best propagated by dividing the rhizomes in early spring. It is important to plant it in a moist, well-draining soil and to keep it watered during dry periods. While it prefers partial shade, it can tolerate full sun as long as it is not in direct sunlight for extended periods.

In conclusion, variegated horsetail is a versatile plant with a rich history, diverse uses, and ecological significance. Whether you're looking to add it to your garden or incorporate it into your diet, it is important to understand its characteristics and take appropriate measures to prevent its invasive tendencies. With proper care and management, variegated horsetail can be a valuable addition to any garden or landscape.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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