E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Equisetum arvense L.
common horsetail (field horsetail)
Equisetaceae (Horsetail family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Bryan Kelly-McArthur  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #87592)

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Distribution of Equisetum arvense
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Species Information

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Perennial from a felty-hairy, tuber-bearing rhizome.
10-80 cm tall, 3-5 mm thick, with their central cavity less than 1/2 the stem diameter, regularly branched, the sheaths with 10-16 pointed teeth; branches in regular whorls, triangular in cross-section; the 1st internode of branches longer than the corresponding stem sheaths; fertile stems appearing in spring before sterile stems, about 10-15 cm tall, pale brown, unbranched, dying after the spores are shed, the sheaths 4-6, pale brown with 6-12 darker teeth.
1-4 cm long, with solid centres, rounded on the tops.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Green
Present from Spring to Fall
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Wet to mesic sandy or disturbed sites, streambanks, open places and shady forests from the lowland and steppe to alpine zones; common throughout BC; circumpolar, N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF and S to SC, GA, AL, MS, TX, NM, AZ, CA and MX; Greenland, Eurasia, N. Africa, New Zealand.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Equisetum arvense

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 1042 2500
Slope Gradient (%) 0 7 420
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 8 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 5 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(10), BAFA(49), BG(24), BWBS(546), CDF(14), CWH(449), ESSF(1447), ICH(911), IDF(350), IMA(2), MH(37), MS(546), PP(29), SBPS(138), SBS(1405), SWB(124)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-tolerant/intolerant. submontane to subalpine. circumpolar horsetail (transcontinental in North America). Grows on nitrogen­medium soils within tundra, boreal, temperate,. and mesothermal climates. Common on water-receiving (floodplain. Seepage, springs and ephemeral streams) sites, frequently dominant in early-seral communities and forest openings. Characteristic of disturbed sites.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Equisetum arvense var. alpestre Wahlenb.
Equisetum arvense var. boreale (Bong.) Rupr.
Equisetum arvense var. campestre Wahlenb.
Equisetum arvense var. riparium Farw.
Equisetum calderi B. Boivin

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References