Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is an invasive native herbaceous perennial plant (weed). It’s often confused for Mare's tail, probably due to the similarity in names.
It’s easily recognised throughout the summer and autumn by its upright (5-60cm height) light green, fir tree-like shoots (pointed green shoots with folded needle-like leaves pointing upward around the stem). These shoots are rough to the touch as they have a natural hard casing. In spring, the plant first appears as light brown stems (20-50cm tall) with a fertile spore-producing cone structure at the end of the stems. A single cone can produce 100,000 spores. As a perennial, the above-ground growth completely dies off in the winter.
It is recommended that this plant is controlled or eradicated, and you have a duty of care to prevent its spread from your property. You must handle and dispose of the plant in accordance with strict guidelines and legislation. Contact us, we can help.
Horsetail Control, Treatment & Survey Specialists
Japanese Knotweed Ltd are experienced contractors in the surveying and remediation of invasive non-native plant species. We will survey a site and establish the best method and price for control or eradication in accordance with the client’s requirements. Works are expertly undertaken by trained and certified operational staff, with all works fully recorded. By contacting us you benefit from:
- Correct identification of Horsetail
- Professional Invasive Weed Survey
- Detailed Invasive Weed Management Plan
to include survey findings, recommendations and costs
- Nationwide service with a quick response
- Expert advice and knowledge
- Consumer protection as we are PCA Members
What Does Horsetail Look Like?
Horsetail has an underground stem structure called rhizomes. These creeping rhizomes may go down as deep as 2m (7ft) below the surface and spread out laterally. This enables the plant to spread not only by spore dispersal but underground rhizome growth as well. In fact, the main method of spread is by vegetative reproduction of detached rhizomes and tubers. Features include:
- Upright 5-60cm light green stem
- Pointed green shots
- Folded needle like leaves
- Light brown stems in spring
- Single cone can produce 100000 spores
What’s the difference between Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) and Mare's tail (Hipparis vulgaris)?
The confusion with these two different plants may well be the similarity in the name, also Horsetail, a non-flowering plant, does not appear in many wildflower books, whereas Mare's tail does flower and is often featured.
Horsetail is a deep-rooted fast-growing weed with dense foliage. The leaves have a waxy coat, making the weed difficult to eradicate. Correct and regular treatment with glyphosate weed killer will eventually kill the plant.
Mare's tail is an aquatic weed, Hippuris vulgaris, commonly found in ponds, slow-flowing streams, bogland and even poorly drained domestic gardens. It’s often the weed blamed for causing problems in cultivated gardens, when the real culprit is the Horsetail weed.
Horsetail is a pernicious weed capable of rapidly colonising a diverse range of sites as it’s extremely hardy. It spreads quickly, out-competing other plants to form a dense carpet of foliage. Surprisingly due to the relative fragility of the individual stems, it also presents a damage risk to hard standing.
Unfortunately, it is common to see hard standing (block-paving, macadam roads and pavements) damaged by Horsetail growth, where the rhizome has exploited gaps in these surfaces. Developers who have failed to identify and remove Horsetail under construction, therefore, do find this plant re-appearing through newly laid driveways and footpaths.
Horsetail is extremely dangerous to grazing horses, as it inhibits the production of vitamin B1. Symptoms of Horsetail poisoning in horses include scruffy physical appearance, weight loss, diarrhoea, uncoordinated movements, loss of muscular control, staggering gait, balance issues, seizures, death from exhaustion.
How to Get Rid of Horsetail
Control can be achieved by professional application of suitable herbicides. However, the hard casing of the plant, its deep extensive rhizome system and spore dispersal make it very hard to eradicate. The application of herbicides should be seen as a control measure only in nearly all cases and is unlikely to achieve complete eradication.
Complete eradication can be achieved via the digging out (excavation) of the plant, which requires our expertise to ensure that the entire rhizome is identified and removed. This is the preferred method for development sites to reduce the risk of subsequent hard standing damage post construction completion.
Where Horsetail has already caused hard-standing damage, we would only recommend repairing this damage once the Horsetail has been dug out (perhaps accompanied by the installation of a protective root barrier). If the Horsetail was to be treated with herbicide only the risk of re-growth and repeat damage to the hard standing is high.