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Shade Horsetail

Equisetum pratense

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Equisetaceae (Horsetail)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Cliffs, grassland, meadows, moorland, ponds, riverbanks, riversides, waterside, wetland, woodland.
Horsetails do not produce flowers. They reproduce by means of spores instead.
The fruit is a terminal cone. The seeds ripen in April.
A patch-forming, stiff-looking horsetail with slender stems and whorls of thin branches, often drooping at the tips. The stems have between 8 and 20 ridges.
Other Names:
Broad-leaved Horsetail, Field Horsetail, Meadow Horsetail, Shady Horsetail.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Equisetum pratense, commonly known as the meadow horsetail or broad-leaved horsetail, is a perennial herb in the Equisetaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia and can be found in damp meadows, grasslands, and along stream banks. The plant has green, jointed stems that resemble those of a horse's tail, and it reproduces both sexually and asexually. It has been used for medicinal purposes, including as a diuretic and to treat conditions such as hemorrhoids and kidney stones.


Shade horsetail, scientifically known as Equisetum pratense, is a plant species that belongs to the family Equisetaceae. It is commonly found in damp and shady habitats, such as woodlands, forests, and wetlands. Shade horsetail is native to Europe, Asia, and parts of North America.

The shade horsetail plant has a distinct appearance, with a dark green stem that has black rings at regular intervals. The stem is also hollow and jointed, and it can grow up to 60 cm tall. The plant also has small, scale-like leaves that grow at the joints of the stem. The shade horsetail plant reproduces through spores rather than seeds.

Shade horsetail has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It contains a compound called silica, which is known to have various health benefits. Silica helps to strengthen bones, teeth, and nails, and it also supports healthy skin, hair, and connective tissues. The plant has also been used to treat conditions such as kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and inflammation.

In addition to its medicinal uses, shade horsetail has also been used for other purposes. The plant has a high concentration of silica, which makes it useful in the production of abrasives, such as sandpaper and polishing agents. It has also been used in traditional basket weaving, as the stems of the plant are strong and flexible.

Despite its many uses, shade horsetail should be used with caution. The plant contains thiaminase, an enzyme that can break down thiamine, a vitamin that is essential for proper nerve function. Consuming large amounts of shade horsetail can lead to thiamine deficiency, which can cause neurological problems.

Shade horsetail has a long history of use in traditional medicine. The plant has been used in China for over 2,000 years to treat conditions such as tuberculosis, diabetes, and urinary tract infections. In Europe, shade horsetail was used as a diuretic to help flush out excess water from the body and to treat wounds.

Today, shade horsetail is still used in herbal medicine. It is often used as a natural remedy for urinary tract infections and kidney stones, as it can help to reduce inflammation and promote urine flow. The plant is also used to treat conditions such as osteoporosis, arthritis, and skin conditions.

In addition to its medicinal uses, shade horsetail has been used in various other industries. The plant has been used in the production of paper, as the high silica content of the stems makes them strong and durable. The plant has also been used in the production of pesticides, as it contains compounds that are toxic to insects.

Shade horsetail is also commonly used in gardening and landscaping. The plant is often used as a ground cover, as it can grow quickly and form a dense mat. It is also used in aquatic gardens, as it can grow in shallow water and help to purify the water.

Despite its many uses, shade horsetail is considered a weed in some areas. The plant can be invasive and difficult to control, as it spreads quickly through rhizomes and spores. In some cases, shade horsetail can take over wetlands and other natural habitats, displacing native plant species.

Shade horsetail is known for its ability to absorb heavy metals and other contaminants from soil and water. The plant has been used in phytoremediation projects, which involve using plants to remove pollutants from contaminated sites. Shade horsetail is particularly effective at absorbing heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium.

In addition to its phytoremediation properties, shade horsetail is also used in biodynamic farming. Biodynamic farming is a holistic approach to agriculture that emphasizes the interconnectedness of all living things. Shade horsetail is used as a natural fertilizer and soil conditioner in biodynamic farming, as it is rich in minerals and can help to improve soil health.

Shade horsetail is also an important food source for certain animals. The plant is high in nutrients and is eaten by various herbivores, including deer and elk. Some species of birds also use the plant as a nesting material.

Finally, shade horsetail is considered an important species for conservation. The plant is protected in some areas due to its rarity or threatened status. In the United Kingdom, for example, shade horsetail is listed as a priority species for conservation due to its decline in many areas.

Overall, shade horsetail is a versatile and valuable plant species with many uses and benefits. From its medicinal properties to its use in phytoremediation and biodynamic farming, shade horsetail has a wide range of applications. While it should be used with caution due to its potential risks, shade horsetail has much to offer and deserves further study and exploration.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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