Equisetum hyemale: Rough horsetail

Family: Equisetaceae
Common name: Rough horsetail, Scouring rush, Scouringrush horsetail, Horsetail, Canuela

If you have a thin strip of land near your garden wall, bordering your balcony or inside your house that you want to decorate, there is no better plant than Rough horsetail. The plant is characterized by thin, long, reed-like stems that extend from the root till the tip of the plant, about 1 meter long.

The stems are dark green and hollow, having black ridges that look like rings, that are embedded with silica. These ridges have tiny black scale-like leaves which are not clearly visible. These plants prefer wetlands, humid areas near rivers, streams, marshes, or springs.

Rough horsetails are very sturdy and can grow in all kinds of conditions, poor soil, salinity, pollution, etc., but they are not drought-tolerant. These plants do not produce flowers or fruits, and reproduce through spores.

They are mostly grown as ornamental plants because of their unique stems. Rough horsetail plants grow very quickly spreading by means of underground runners and also through spores, making them dangerously invasive is left uncontrolled.

But within a contained area or a pot, Rought horsetail plants can thrive well without becoming a nuisance. Many large gardens place root barriers around these plants to prevent uncontrolled spread.

They are brilliant plants for water bodies. Plant them in pots and place them inside a flowerpot or basin filled with water. And voila, you have a small waterbody that can add a lot of character to your garden. Young leaves of Rough horsetail plants are light greenish, yellow, almost phosphorescent, and look like they are glowing.

If the plants become unruly, they can be pruned well or even cut into desired shapes. They are evergreen, growing in all climates in tropical countries. Rough horsetail plants prefer good sunlight and moisture, but they do not need fertilization. They are resistant to pests and diseases, and rarely ever get eradicated by pest infections.

The silica content in the ridges of the stem makes them rough like sandpaper. Hence they are used for scouring vessels, giving the plant its name Scouring bush. Boiled and dried stems are used as polishing materials.

Some related species are Equisetum arvense or field horsetail which is a very aggressive weed; Equisetum giganteum or giant horsetail; and Equisetum variegatum which has black and white sheaths on its stem. All these species are characterized by fast growth and vegetative reproduction, and are considered invasive species in most parts of the world.

Propagation is through stem cuttings, spores, and root runners that easily produce new plants.