Equisetum sylvaticum (Woodland Horsetail)

Plant Info
Also known as: Wood Horsetail
Family:Equisetaceae (Horsetail)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist, shady woods and woodland edges
Fruiting season:mid to late spring
Plant height:10 to 28 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: Leaf attachment: whorl Leaf type: compound

[photo of branches] The sterile stem is green and has whorled branches that are spreading and often arching. Branches are further branched (compound) which makes them appear lacy.

[photo of sheath] The “leaves” of the horsetail are reduced to a toothed sheath that surrounds the stem. The sheath is slightly inflated in the lower half and constricted some just below the teeth. The top of the sheath is divided into 10 to 18 papery, reddish colored teeth, which are joined along the edges into 3 or 4 groups of a few teeth each.

Fruit: Fruit type: spores on stalk

[photo of spore cone] Fertile stems are identified by the blunt-tipped, 1 to 1½ inch cone at the tip of the stem. Initially, the fertile stem is pale pink to brownish and there are no branches, but after the spores are released the stem turns green, branches develop, and the cone eventually falls off.


Woodland Horsetail is the only Equisetum species in North America with compound branching and reddish colored teeth. It spreads both by spores and vegetatively through rhizomes, and may create large colonies.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Aitkin and Ramsey counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin and Anoka counties.


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

Posted by: Joni - Aitkin/Carlton County
on: 2018-04-03 15:27:47

I have this plant coming up in my garden! My garden is not a wetland, but we've had some pretty rainy spring/summers lately. I was wondering if anyone knew how to get rid of it? It's pretty in the woods, but wreaking havoc on my garden. And it's impossible to weed! It just breaks off and a million more sprout up - like the Hydra in Greek Mythology. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

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