Equisetum pratense (Meadow Horsetail)
|Also known as:
|part shade, shade, sun; moist woods, wet meadows
|mid to late spring
|8 to 16 inches
|Wetland Indicator Status:
|GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):
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Leaves and stems:
The sterile stem is slender, green and has whorled branches that grow horizontal (parallel to the ground) to drooping. The “leaves” are reduced to a toothed sheath that surrounds the stem, with 8 to 19 teeth that are dark brown with white edging. The stem has a small central cavity; branches are solid and rough to touch. The first sheath on the branch (aka first internode) has 3 or 4 teeth. The first internode on the lowest branch is shorter than the stem sheath, though the first internode on branches higher up may be as long as or very slightly longer than the stem sheath.
Fertile stems are not like sterile stems, identified by the blunt-tipped, 1-inch cone at the tip of the stem. Initially, the stem is pale pink to brownish and there are no branches, but after the spores are released the fertile stem turns green and branches develop, becoming like sterile stems.
Meadow Horsetail spreads both by spores and vegetatively from rhizomes and may create large colonies. It may be confused with Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) or Marsh Horsetail (E. palustre), both of which have spreading to ascending branches, not drooping. In addition, while E. palustre also has branch internodes shorter than the stem sheath, it has 5 or 6 teeth on the branch sheath and hollow branches. While E. arvense has 3 or 4 teeth on the branch sheath like E. pratense, the first internode on the branch is distinctly longer (by 3-4mm) than the stem sheath. In contrast, E. pratense has 3 teeth on the branch sheath and the first internode on the branch is shorter than the sheath on the main stem. Note that when comparing the internode length to the stem sheath, it is important to look at the lowest branch. On E. pratense, the first internode on upper branches may be as long as or very slightly longer than the stem sheath, which can make it difficult/confusing to identify.
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- Meadow Horsetail plant
- Meadow Horsetail plants
- close up of pale edging on stem teeth
- Meadow Horsetail woodland habitat
- a colony of Meadow Horsetail
- first internode length, not the lowest branch
Photos by K. Chayka taken at Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area, Hennepin County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?