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Water Horsetail

Equisetum fluviatile

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Plant Profile

Equisetaceae (Horsetail)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
2 metres tall
Bogs, ditches, marshes, ponds, riverbanks, riversides, swamps, water, waterside, wetland.
Flowerless. Horsetails reproduce by spores.
Ovoid cones sit on top of the fertile main stems. The cones are technically known as 'strobili' and reach a maximum of 1.5 cm in length.
The green furrowed stems have 10 to 30 very shallow grooves. Whorls of leaf-like branches appear along the erect single main stem.
Other Names:
River Horsetail, Swamp Horsetail.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Equisetum fluviatile, commonly known as river 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 2 meters tall. It 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. It's also used for water purification, as it's able to absorb pollutants.


Water horsetail, scientifically known as Equisetum fluviatile, is a unique plant species that belongs to the genus Equisetum. It is a perennial plant that is commonly found in moist habitats such as marshes, bogs, and riverbanks. This plant has a long history of medicinal and cultural uses, and it continues to be an important part of modern herbal medicine.

Description of Water Horsetail

Water horsetail is a non-flowering plant that belongs to the family Equisetaceae. It is a tall plant that can grow up to 2 meters in height, and its stem is characterized by a unique jointed structure that is made up of hollow internodes. The plant's leaves are reduced to small scales that are fused together to form a sheath around the stem. The plant's reproductive structures are cone-like structures that are produced at the tips of the stems.

Habitat and Distribution

Water horsetail is native to North America and Eurasia, and it can be found in a wide range of habitats such as wetlands, rivers, and streams. This plant prefers moist soils and can tolerate a wide range of pH levels. It is a relatively hardy plant that can survive in harsh environments and is known for its ability to grow in both freshwater and saltwater habitats.

Medicinal Uses

Water horsetail has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. It is a rich source of silica, which is an essential nutrient that helps to strengthen bones, hair, and nails. In addition, it has diuretic properties that make it an effective treatment for urinary tract infections, edema, and kidney stones. It is also used to treat wounds, cuts, and other skin infections due to its antimicrobial properties.

Cultural and Historical Significance

Water horsetail has a long history of cultural and historical significance. It was used by Native American tribes for various purposes such as food, medicine, and even as a source of fire. The plant was also used by ancient Egyptians for its medicinal properties and was considered a symbol of eternal life.

In Conclusion

Water horsetail, Equisetum fluviatile, is a unique plant species with a long history of medicinal and cultural significance. It is a hardy plant that can survive in a wide range of habitats and is known for its diuretic and antimicrobial properties. It continues to be an important part of modern herbal medicine, and its use is likely to continue in the future.

Blog continued...

Water horsetail, also known as scouring rush, is a plant with many other uses beyond its medicinal properties. For instance, the plant's high silica content makes it useful as a natural abrasive, which is why it has been used for centuries to polish metal and wood. The hollow stem of the plant has also been used to make flutes, whistles, and even as a natural straw.

Water horsetail also has ecological significance. As a wetland plant, it plays an important role in maintaining healthy wetland ecosystems. The plant's extensive root system helps to stabilize wetland soils, which reduces erosion and sedimentation. The plant's leaves and stems provide habitat and food for a variety of insects and small animals, which in turn provides food for larger predators.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in using water horsetail for phytoremediation. Phytoremediation is the process of using plants to remove pollutants from contaminated soils and water. Water horsetail is particularly effective at removing heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury from soil and water. This makes it a potentially valuable tool for cleaning up polluted sites and improving environmental health.

Water horsetail has also been used in traditional cuisine in various parts of the world. For example, in Japan, the young shoots of water horsetail are used in traditional cuisine, particularly in the preparation of tempura. In Iceland, the plant is used to make a type of beer called bjór, which is made by fermenting the plant's stems and leaves. In Russia, the plant is used to make a type of tea called kaporie cha, which is said to have a refreshing and slightly sweet taste.

Water horsetail also has potential as a bioindicator of environmental health. The plant's sensitivity to pollutants and heavy metals makes it a useful indicator of environmental contamination. By monitoring the health of water horsetail populations, scientists and environmentalists can gain valuable insights into the health of wetland ecosystems and the impacts of human activities on these ecosystems.

Finally, water horsetail has been the subject of scientific research in recent years, particularly with regard to its potential as a source of natural products with pharmaceutical applications. Researchers have identified a number of compounds in water horsetail with potential health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer properties. These findings suggest that water horsetail may have even greater potential as a source of natural medicine than previously thought.

In conclusion, water horsetail is a versatile and fascinating plant with many uses and potential benefits. Whether used in traditional medicine, cuisine, or environmental monitoring, this plant has much to offer and is likely to remain an important part of our natural world for many years to come.


Water Horsetails filmed at Bolton on the 25th May 2023 and at Heysham Nature Reserve on the 29th May 2023.


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