Synonymy: Equisetum calderi, E. boreale, E. saxicola (3)
Etymology: The genus comes from “equus,” the Latin for “horse” and “seta,” the Latin for “bristle.” The epithet, “arvense,” is Latin for “field.” (1)
Growth form: Fern (2)
Roots: Rhizomes occur in layers, some have been found to be up to 5.5 feet deep (2). Rooting occurs at the base of each erect shoot and on the rhizomes. Rhizomes have the capability to grow storage tubers.
Stem: E. arvense has both fertile and sterile shoots. The fertile shoots have unbranched stems that produce spores. These fertile shoots also have branched fertile stems on them. The sterile stems are hollow with up to 20 whorls of 3-4 branches. At each whorl is a node (a joint where two pieces of the stem are fitted together). 2-100 cm tall (3).
Leaves: Small and inconspicuous, they are connected to the base of each node. Scale-like.
Fruit: Cones are formed at the tips of shoots. (Not all shoots form cones.) The cones contain spores from which the plant regenerates (4).
Similar species: N/A
Life history: Perennial (2)
Native/Introduced: Native to US (2)
Photosynthetic pathway: C3
Phenology: Cones form mostly in April and May (3, 4).
Distribution: Elevation—2,100-10,800 ft. Circumpolar (4). In North America: Alaska to Newfoundland, south to Georgia, west to Texas and California. Prefers moist or disturbed areas. (2)
Wildlife: Sometimes eaten by bears and livestock. Not extremely nutritious and may cause death in horses if eaten in abundance (2).
Resources: Places in which this ancient plant resided are now coal deposits.
Medicinal: Native Americans and early settlers used it as a diuretic in the form of a tea and as a cough medicine for horses (2).
Food: Young shoots are edible (2).
Schneider, A. “Southwest Colorado Wildflowers, Ferns, & Trees.” Last updated Novemeber 16, 2002. Accessed 5 December, 2002. http://www.swcoloradowildflowers.com/Fern%20Enlarged%20Photo%20Pages/equisetum%20arvense.htm
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (2002, September). Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. Accessed 5 December, 2002. http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/fern/equarv/
Matus, M. “Welcome to the Wonderful World of Equisetum.” Last updated 10 January 2001. Accessed 5 December 2002. http://members.eunet.at/m.matus/index.html
S.G. Aiken, M.C. LeBlanc, and M.J. Dallwitz 2000 onwards. “Pteridophytes of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval.” Version: 23rd February 2001. Accessed 5 December, 2002. http://www.mun.ca/biology/delta/arcticf/’.