Equisetum praealtum (Tall Scouring Rush)

Plant Info
Also known as: Common Scouring Rush, Rough Horsetail
Family:Equisetaceae (Horsetail)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; wet sandy soil; ditches, meadows, stream and river banks
Fruiting season:summer
Plant height:2 to 4 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FAC
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 rough, green and has no branches. The “leaves” are reduced to a sheath that surrounds the stem with a black band around the base. The sheath is pale gray, with 14 to 50 black teeth that fall off as the season progresses, sometimes leaving just a black ring around the top of the sheath. Stems are evergreen and persist through the winter but eventually turn brown and wither away. The central cavity is about ¾ the width of the stem but the stem is firm.

Fruit: Fruit type: spores on stalk

[photo of spore cone] Fertile stems are like the sterile stems but with a 1-inch cone at the tip of the stem. Cones are rounded at the tip but with an abrupt, small, sharp point. Occasionally old stems develop branches with cones as well.


Tall Scouring Rush, formerly known as Equisetum hyemale, is one of three similar, unbranched Equisetum species in Minnesota, the others are Smooth Scouring Rush (E. laevigatum) and Variegated Scouring Rush (E. variegatum). E. hyemale can be identified by the black band around the base of its pale gray sheath and often a dark ring around the top as well. E. laevigatum is further distinguished by a ring around the top of the sheath, rarely the base, and E. variegatum by fewer, larger persistent teeth with distinct white edging. The rough stems of E. hyemale were used by early Americans for cleaning and "scouring" pots and pans. E. praealtum hybridizes with E. laevigatum, producing E. × ferrissii, and with E. variegatum, producing E. × mackaii.

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More photos

Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Clay, Hubbard and Dakota counties.


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

Posted by: Breanna - Baxter/Brainerd
on: 2015-06-26 18:17:05

Found this along the Paul Bunyan trail near a wetland type area. The kids thought it was fun that the pieces could come apart so easily.

Posted by: Leah - Anoka
on: 2016-07-04 21:26:31

I found this (or a variant of it) near the pond on King's Island (near the Mississipi River).

Posted by: Helen Sievers
on: 2020-06-28 12:52:19

You may want to include comments about the absorption of silica into Equisetum thus resulting in their roughness and use for scouring.

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