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All About Horsetail Weed

For the passionate gardener, weeds are nuisances that compromise the beauty and health of your beloved plants. Many gardeners agree that Horsetail Weeds are particularly egregious offenders.

You may not have heard of them if you’re lucky enough to have avoided them. However, if they’ve recently appeared in your yard, read on to learn exactly what they are and how you can deal with them!

horsetail weed

What is a Horsetail Weed?

Scientific Name

In the scientific community, the Horsetail Weed is called equisetum arvense, a Latin term translating roughly to “horse bristle” in English.

It’s likely a reference to the weed’s long, thin stem and narrow leaves protruding outward near each other. The weed looks similar to a horse’s tail, which is why it’s also called a mare’s tail.

How to Identify

Equisetum arvense,  field horsetail with dew drops closeup selective focus


In addition to reminding passersby of horses’ tails, the weed is green and/or brown with hollow stems. It usually reaches at least 8 inches long, but Ideal soil and weather will let the weed grow to 20 inches.


The weeds’ silica content makes them feel not only rough but sticky.


Horsetail Weeds are not known for having a strong flavor. Most people say it’s similar to a mild vegetable, like asparagus. It tastes best when combined with other herbs or flavors.

Where it Grows

If you’re in a wooded area and see a long-stemmed, thin, and bristled green plant, then chances are you’ve encountered a Horsetail Weed. That’s where they thrive but can grow anywhere with rough yet moist soil.

Why It’s Considered a Weed

Spore stem of field horsetail  in spring field

Although Horsetail Weed causes no harm in and of itself, it’s a hardy plant that grows densely, leaving little space, water, or nutrition for other plants to grow.

That’s fine for moose, geese, sheep, bears, and other animals that eat it in the forest. For a home garden, however, it’s an unwelcome invader that stunts everything else you’re trying to grow.

How Horsetail Weed Spreads

Horsetail Weeds release spores that may take hold in the right soil. However, the true problem is the rootstalk system, which often extends four feet below the surface and stretches lateral shoots everywhere they can reach.

This also allows them to damage a garden; the rootstalk shoots clash with other root systems and/or steal moisture and nutrients before other plants can absorb them.

How to Get Rid of Horsetail Weed

Applying weed killer might be a good start, as it temporarily improves the garden’s appearance. The poison may also reach the rhizome system to stop or slow its growth. Unfortunately, these weeds are notorious for resisting any but the most powerful poisons.

There’s no use pulling Horsetail Weeds up by the stems or suffocating them with bark mulch or plastic because the rhizome system will remain intact. Additionally, excavating the entire garden to pull up every rootstalk is time-consuming and impractical.

Instead, changing their environment is the surest way to eliminate these weeds. Horsetail Weeds thrive on low oxygen, limited nutrition, and acidic soil.

By taking these steps to make your garden more hostile to them, you’ll watch them gradually – but permanently – die away within one to five years.

Improve Drainage

Fill in any pockets of soil that tend to hold a lot of water. Consider installing an irrigation system that provides the amount of water your garden needs and drains the rest. An automated system would take the guesswork and extra effort out of it for you.

Apply Dolomite Lime

Dolomite lime is prized as a neutralizing agent for acidic soil, raising the pH level to a point that helps most plants absorb nutrients more efficiently. Add a bag of dolomite lime to your garden according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Spread Fertilizer

After giving the dolomite lime a couple of weeks to settle, get some fish compost or horse manure. This improves the pH level further and kills Horsetail Weeds more thoroughly.

Potential Uses and Benefits

Fresh horsetail or Equisetum arvense twigs in a cup of herbal tea

They may not do any favors for your other plants, but Horsetail Weeds can benefit your physical health in numerous ways. Rather than throwing them away after removing them from your yard, steep them in hot water to make tea!

If you’re not a tea fan, look for horsetail tinctures or capsules instead, or use it as seasoning for your meals. No matter the form you consume them, here’s what you can expect to gain.

Cancer Prevention

Antioxidants are well documented for their ability to neutralize free radical cells, reducing cancer risk. They boost your immune system, making you less prone to illness and disease. Luckily, Horsetail Weeds contain a notable amount of them.

Bone Health

Silicon is a crucial mineral for bone strength, density, and healing. It also supports joint function and healthy tissue development. Some doctors use the Horsetail Weed to treat osteoporosis thanks to its silicon content.

Hair, Nail, and Skin Vitality

Silicon synthesizes collagen and elastin, as if the previous benefits were insufficient, while antioxidants prevent wrinkles and repair damaged skin. Since Horsetail Weeds have both, your hair, nails, and skin will look and feel better, which might increase your self-confidence.

Reduced Inflammation

Inflammation is a common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. Some scientific studies have suggested that Horsetail Weeds prevent or alleviate such inflammation, facilitating a better quality of life for patients.

Blood Sugar and Cholesterol Moderation

High blood sugar and cholesterol can lead to serious medical conditions, like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, lupus, or kidney disorders.

According to at least one scientific study, Horsetail Weeds help your blood sugar and cholesterol hover at healthy levels, so you’re safer from such problems.

Sodium Control

In addition to inconveniences like thirst, water retention, headaches, and swelling, excess sodium in your body can contribute to heart disease, stroke, and hypertension.

Throughout history, Horsetail Weeds have been famed as a natural diuretic. Consuming them helps your body get rid of excess sodium through urine.

What Will You Do With Horsetail Weeds?

Horsetail Weeds represent both problems and opportunities for your garden. Whether or not you choose to use them after removal, you’re a better gardener for knowing what they are and how to handle them!

If you feel like you need to learn more about these pesky garden tenants, check out our weeds page to learn all about different weed varieties, treatment options, and surprising information.