Equisetum variegatum (Variegated Scouring Rush)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Equisetaceae (Horsetail)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; shallow water, wet thickets, ditches, bogs
Fruiting season:summer
Plant height:6 to 18 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW 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 has no branches. The “leaves” are reduced to a sheath that surrounds the stem. At the top of the sheath is a narrow black band and 3 to 12 teeth that are black/brown with distinct white edges. The teeth persist all season. The stem is evergreen and persists through the winter. The central cavity is ¼ to 1/3 the diameter of the stem.

Fruit: Fruit type: spores on stalk

[photo of spore cones] Fertile stems are like the sterile stems but with a ½-inch cone at the tip of the stem. Cones have a sharply pointed tip, mature in late summer or may over-winter and release spores the following spring.


Variegated Scouring Rush is one of three similar, erect, unbranched Equisetum species in Minnesota, the others are Smooth Scouring Rush (E. laevigatum) and Tall Scouring Rush (E. praealtum, a.k.a. E. hyemale). Equisetum variegatum can be identified by the distinct, persistent teeth that are black with white edges. These teeth are most similar to Dwarf Scouring Rush (E. scirpoides) but that species is less than 8 inches tall and has curling/twisted stems. E. laevigatum and E. praealtum both have teeth that fall off as the season progresses and lack the white edging. E. variegatum hybridizes with E. laevigatum, producing E. × nelsonii, and with E. praealtum, producing E. × mackaii. There are 2 subspecies of E. variegatum, distinguished by the curvature and coloration of the sheath teeth; subsp. variegatum, with erect teeth and white edging, is the most common and found in Minnesota.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook County.


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

Posted by: anonymous - Cheste woods in Eyota, Olmsted County, on their Kisrow trail
on: 2018-07-13 17:56:01

We saw this plant in groups in Chester Woods Park, and my family and I had absolutely no idea what the heck it was. After a few days of asking people and looking online, we eventually figured out it was this plant, word for word. Found in a wet area that is partly shady, same black rings, same cones, everything.

Posted by: gary - Lake County
on: 2022-07-29 22:13:08

Huge colony in an abandoned gravel pit with spring water supplying the soil with consistent saturation.

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