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Marsh Horsetail

Equisetum palustre

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:
50 centimetres tall
Bogs, fens, grassland, heathland, marshes, meadows, riversides, swamps, waterside, wetland, woodland.
Flowerless. Horsetails reproduce by spores.
A blunt-tipped cone sits on top of the main stem. The cone matures in July and August.
The green furrowed stems have 8 to 10 ridges. Whorls of leaf-like branches appear along the erect single main stem. The branches are grow either outward or nearly erect from below the stems sheathed nodes. The lower sheaths are dark brown and shorter than the upper ones. The sheaths have between 4 and 12 teeth which are green with black teeth.
Other Names:
Water Horsetail.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Equisetum palustre, commonly known as marsh horsetail or water horsetail, 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, green, jointed stem, which is smooth and unbranched, and can grow up to 50 cm tall. It prefers damp, shady areas such as wet meadows, marshes, and stream banks. 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. It's also used for water purification, as it's able to absorb pollutants.


Marsh Horsetail, scientifically known as Equisetum palustre, is a common plant species found in wetland areas across Europe and Asia. It is a member of the Equisetaceae family, which is an ancient family of plants that originated over 300 million years ago during the Carboniferous period.

Marsh Horsetail has a unique appearance that makes it easy to identify. It has a hollow stem that is segmented into small, jointed sections. The stem is green and can grow up to 50 cm in height. The plant also has thin, needle-like leaves that grow from the stem in whorls. These leaves are green and have a rough texture.

One of the most interesting features of Marsh Horsetail is its reproductive system. The plant produces two types of spores: small, dusty spores that are produced in a cone-shaped structure at the tip of the stem, and larger, round spores that are produced in a separate cone-shaped structure on a different part of the plant. The spores are dispersed by the wind, and when they land in a suitable environment, they germinate and grow into new plants.

Marsh Horsetail has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and rheumatism. The plant contains high levels of silica, which has been shown to have a positive effect on bone health. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the body.

In addition to its medicinal uses, Marsh Horsetail has other practical uses as well. The plant has been used to make scouring pads and as a natural abrasive. It has also been used as a dye for fabric.

Despite its many uses, Marsh Horsetail is not without its drawbacks. The plant can be invasive in some areas and can quickly take over wetland ecosystems. It is also toxic to livestock, particularly horses and cattle.

Overall, Marsh Horsetail is a fascinating plant with a long history of use in medicine and industry. While it may not be suitable for every environment, it has many beneficial properties that make it a valuable resource in the right circumstances.

Marsh Horsetail is a fascinating plant that has been used by humans for a wide variety of purposes throughout history. Here are some additional facts and information about this interesting plant:

  • Marsh Horsetail is sometimes called "swamp scouring rush" or "marsh horsetail rush." It is also known by its scientific name, Equisetum palustre.

  • Marsh Horsetail is native to Europe and Asia, but it has been introduced to other parts of the world, including North America.

  • The plant is commonly found in wetland areas, such as marshes, swamps, and bogs. It prefers moist, acidic soil and can grow in standing water.

  • Marsh Horsetail is a perennial plant, which means it lives for more than one year. It grows from a rhizome, which is a type of underground stem that sends out roots and shoots.

  • The plant has been used for centuries in traditional medicine. It has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including wounds, inflammation, and kidney problems. It is also said to have diuretic properties, which can help flush excess fluid from the body.

  • Marsh Horsetail is high in silica, which is a mineral that is important for bone health. Some studies have shown that consuming silica supplements or foods high in silica can help prevent osteoporosis and improve bone density.

  • The plant has also been used for industrial purposes. Its abrasive properties have made it useful for polishing and cleaning metal, glass, and other surfaces. It has also been used in the production of scouring pads and as a natural sandpaper.

  • In some cultures, Marsh Horsetail has been used for spiritual or magical purposes. It has been used as a charm to protect against snakes and other reptiles, and it has been burned as incense to purify the air.

  • While Marsh Horsetail has many beneficial properties, it can also be toxic to livestock, particularly horses and cattle. The plant contains chemicals called alkaloids, which can be harmful if ingested in large amounts.

Overall, Marsh Horsetail is a versatile and interesting plant with a long history of use in medicine, industry, and culture. While it should be used with caution due to its toxicity and invasive tendencies, it has many valuable properties that make it a valuable resource in the right circumstances.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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