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Equisetum arvense

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Equisetum arvense, the field horsetail or common horsetail is a herbaceous perennial plant, native throughout the arctic and temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. It has separate sterile non-reproductive and fertile spore-bearing stems, growing from a perennial underground rhizomatous stem system. The fertile stems are produced in early spring and are non-photosynthetic, while the green sterile stems start to grow after the fertile stems have wilted, and persist through the summer until the first autumn frosts.<ref name=hwh>Hyde, H. A., Wade, A. E., & Harrison, S. G. (1978). Welsh Ferns. National Museum of Wales ISBN 0-7200-0210-9.</ref><ref name=fna>Flora of North America: Equisetum arvense</ref> It is commonly confused with mare's tail, Hippuris vulgaris.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>



The sterile stems are 10–90 cm tall and 3–5 mm diameter, with jointed segments around 2–5 cm long with whorls of side shoots at the segment joints; the side shoots have a diameter of about 1 mm. Some stems can have as many as 20 segments. The fertile stems are succulent-textured, off-white, 10–25 cm tall and 3–5 mm diameter, with 4–8 whorls of brown scale leaves, and an apical brown spore cone 10–40 mm long and 4–9 mm broad.<ref name=hwh/>

It has a very high diploid number of 216 (108 pairs of chromosomes).<ref name=hwh/>

The specific name arvense is derived from the Latin arvensis, meaning "from the meadow, field or grassland."


Drawing of a fertile stem of E. arvense, 10 cm as drawn. At the top is the strobilus, that consists of the axis (inside) and 15-20 horizontal circles of about 20 sporangiophores. Lower down the stem, two sheaths of merged microphyls. The stem has lengthwise many strong ridges.
The plant contains several substances which can be used medicinally. It is rich in the minerals silicon (10%), potassium, and calcium.Template:Citation needed The buds are eaten as a vegetable in Japan and Korea in spring time. All other Equisetum species are toxic.
Fertile shoots, in late April.

In polluted conditionsTemplate:Citation needed, it may synthesize nicotine.<ref name="Nicotine content of Equisetum">Template:Cite web</ref> Externally it was traditionally used for chilblains and wounds.<ref>Howard, Michael. Traditional Folk Remedies (Century, 1987); p.159-160</ref> It was also once used to polish pewter and wood (gaining the name pewterwort) and to strengthen fingernails. It is also an abrasive. It was used by hurdy-gurdy players to dress the wheels of their instruments by removing resin build up.<ref>La Vielleuse Habile, Jean-Francois Bouin, 1761, page 19.</ref>

Equisetum is used in biodynamic farming (preparation BD 508) in particular to reduce the effects of excessive water around plants (such as fungal growth). The high silica content of the plant reduces the impact of moisture.<ref name="City Food Growers">Template:Cite web</ref>

E. arvense herb has been used in traditional Austrian medicine internally as tea, or externally as baths or compresses, for treatment of disorders of the skin, locomotor system, kidneys and urinary tract, rheumatism and gout.

Invasive species

Dense growth in moist soil.

Equisetum arvense was introduced into New Zealand in the 1920s and was first identified as an invasive species there by Ella Orr Campbell in 1949.<ref name="Horticulture 2003">Template:Cite journal</ref> It is listed on the National Pest Plant Accord preventing its sale, spread and cultivation.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref>



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  • This page was last modified on 22 February 2016, at 10:36.
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