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Wood Horsetail

Equisetum sylvaticum

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Plant Profile

Equisetaceae (Horsetail)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
50 centimetres tall
Hedgerows, meadows, moorland, wetland, woodland.
Flowerless. Horsetails reproduce by spores.
A blunt cone on the top of the upright stem.
The branches are very distinctive making this plant easily identifiable. The branches are feathery in appearance and they droop downwards. Also, the branches themselves have branches coming off them. The leaves are scale-like, covering the branches.
Other Names:
Rough Horsetail, Woodland Horsetail.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Equisetum sylvaticum, commonly known as wood horsetail or rough 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 rough to the touch due to the presence of silica crystals. It can grow up to 50 cm tall and prefers damp, shady areas such as woodlands, and forested areas. 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 is also known to help with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and hemorrhoids.


Wood horsetail, also known as Equisetum sylvaticum, is a unique and interesting plant species that belongs to the Equisetaceae family. It is commonly found in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including Europe, Asia, and North America. In this blog, we will explore the characteristics, uses, and benefits of wood horsetail.

Characteristics of Wood Horsetail

Wood horsetail is a perennial plant that grows up to 50 centimeters in height. It has a rhizomatous root system that spreads horizontally, and it reproduces by spores instead of seeds. The stems of wood horsetail are cylindrical, hollow, and segmented, with a rough texture due to the presence of silica deposits. The stems are also green in color, and they grow upright from the rhizomes.

The leaves of wood horsetail are reduced to small scales that are fused together to form a sheath around each stem segment. The stems of wood horsetail also produce spores in cone-like structures at their tips. The spores are produced in the summer and fall, and they are dispersed by the wind.

Uses of Wood Horsetail

Wood horsetail has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It is believed to have diuretic, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties. Some traditional uses of wood horsetail include treating urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and bladder problems. It has also been used to promote wound healing and alleviate skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis.

In addition to its medicinal uses, wood horsetail has also been used for other purposes. For example, the stems of wood horsetail have been used to polish wood and metal, due to the abrasive texture caused by the silica deposits. The stems have also been used for weaving baskets and other crafts.

Benefits of Wood Horsetail

Wood horsetail is rich in minerals such as silica, calcium, and potassium. Silica is particularly important for the growth and maintenance of healthy bones, teeth, hair, and nails. Silica also plays a role in collagen synthesis, which is important for skin health and wound healing.

Wood horsetail also has antioxidant properties, which help to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to aging and disease.

Wood horsetail is a unique and interesting plant species that has been used for medicinal and other purposes for centuries. It is rich in minerals and antioxidants, and it has a number of potential health benefits. While more research is needed to fully understand the benefits of wood horsetail, it is a plant that is certainly worth learning more about.

Some facts

Wood horsetail is a fascinating plant that has been used for a variety of purposes throughout history. Here are some additional facts about this unique species:

  1. Evolutionary history: Equisetum sylvaticum belongs to a family of plants that has been around since the Paleozoic Era, over 400 million years ago. These plants were once much larger and more diverse than they are today, with some species growing up to 30 meters in height.

  2. Habitat: Wood horsetail is typically found in damp and shaded areas, such as forests, swamps, and riverbanks. It prefers acidic soils and is often found growing alongside other ferns and mosses.

  3. Other uses: In addition to its medicinal and crafting uses, wood horsetail has been used for dyeing fabrics and as a natural insecticide. It has also been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat coughs, fevers, and other respiratory ailments.

  4. Precautions: While wood horsetail has many potential benefits, it is important to use caution when using this plant for medicinal purposes. Large doses can be toxic, and it can interact with certain medications. It is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedies.

  5. Conservation: Some species of horsetail are considered invasive and can be harmful to native ecosystems. However, wood horsetail is not considered invasive and is often used in ecological restoration projects to stabilize soil and prevent erosion.

In conclusion, wood horsetail is a versatile and unique plant that has been used for centuries for its medicinal and other properties. While more research is needed to fully understand the benefits and potential risks of using this plant, it is clear that it has many interesting uses and applications.

Some more facts

Here are some more interesting facts about wood horsetail:

  1. Fossil record: Horsetails are among the oldest plant groups on Earth, with fossil evidence dating back over 300 million years. Some ancient horsetails grew to be as tall as modern-day trees and were dominant plant species during the Carboniferous Period.

  2. Nutritional value: Horsetails are known for their high silica content, but they are also a good source of other nutrients such as potassium, calcium, and vitamin C. The young shoots of wood horsetail are edible and have been used as a vegetable in some cultures.

  3. Traditional uses: Horsetails have a long history of use in traditional medicine around the world. They have been used to treat a variety of ailments, including skin problems, respiratory issues, and digestive disorders.

  4. Natural pesticide: Horsetails contain compounds that have natural insecticidal properties, making them effective at repelling or killing certain pests. In agriculture, horsetail extracts have been used to control pests on crops such as potatoes, grapes, and tomatoes.

  5. Symbolism: In some cultures, horsetails are considered to be symbols of strength and resilience. They are also sometimes used in traditional ceremonies or as decorative elements in crafts and art.

Overall, wood horsetail is a fascinating plant with a rich history and many potential uses. Whether used for medicinal purposes, crafting, or as a natural pesticide, it is clear that this plant has a lot to offer. As always, it is important to use caution and seek professional advice before using any plant for medicinal or other purposes.


Wood Horsetail filmed on Hall o'the Hill Golf Course on the 9th July 2022.


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