Equisetum laevigatum (Smooth Scouring Rush)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Equisetaceae (Horsetail)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; sandy or gravelly soil; wet meadows, ditches
Fruiting season:late spring, summer
Plant height:1 to 4 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Leaves and stems:

[photo of stem sheath] The sterile stem is green and usually has no branches, though short stubby branches may develop on some plants. The “leaves” are reduced to a sheath that surrounds the stem, with 10 to 32 black teeth around the top. The teeth fall off as the season progresses, leaving a thin dark ring around the top of the sheath.

[photo of stem cavity] The stem is firm, the central cavity mostly ½ to ¾ the diameter of the stem.

Fruit: Fruit type: spores on stalk

[photo of spore cone] Fertile stems are like sterile stems, but with a ½ to 1 inch long cone at the tip of the stem. Cones have a blunt tip or may have a tiny, inconspicuous sharp tip.


Smooth Scouring Rush is one of three similar, unbranched Equisetum species in Minnesota, the others are Tall Scouring Rush (E. praealtum, a.k.a. E. hyemale) and Variegated Scouring Rush (E. variegatum). In the early part of the season, E. laevigatum can be identified by the entirely black teeth; later in the season by the lack of teeth and the dark ring around the top of the sheath. E. praealtum also has black teeth but has a black band around the base of its pale gray sheath and often the tip as well. E. variegatum is further distinguished by its fewer and larger persistent teeth with distinct white edging. E. laevigatum hybridizes with E. praealtum, producing E. × ferrissii, and with E. variegatum, producing E. × nelsonii.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Hennepin counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Kenny h - East of rose creek on shooting star trail
on: 2017-07-22 20:07:49

I have seen this plant for years...thanks to Mn Wildflowers, and the distribution map I am confidant of my ID...prehistoric plant...in the fossil record.

Posted by: Karen - Duluth
on: 2018-01-26 16:59:55

There's something strikingly like this going up all the streams and rivers in Duluth. Not sure if it's this or the Invasive Species of Zebra Bamboo.

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