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Equisetum palustre L.

Marsh horsetail

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionEquisetophytaHorsetails, which date back to the Devonian era
ClassEquisetopsidaHorsetails, spore-bearing plants related to ferns
OrderEquisetalesLiving horsetails (most are extinct)
FamilyEquisetaceaeLiving horsetails
GenusEquisetumFrom equus, horse; and seta, bristle
SpeciespalustreFrom Latin paluster (palustris) “swampy or boggy”

About plant names...

Marsh horsetails are smaller and more delicate looking than most other horsetails. They favor shallow wet areas with sandy soils, such as marshes and swamps. They are rare relative to other members of this genus. Once established, though, they can be practically impossible to eliminate, and are often considered invasive.

Plants: Plants are evergreen, and 4-20" (10-50 cm) tall. Stems have a rough texture, 4-12 (usually 8-10) ribs, and are ¹/₃₂-⅛" (1-3 mm) around. In cross section, stems show vallecular canals about the same size as a central hollow region. The central hollow is much less than half the diameter of the stem. Fertile and sterile stems look pretty much identical, except for the presence of a spore-bearing conelike structure at the tip of the fertile stems, vs. a stem that tapers to a point in sterile stems. The first sheath on the branch has 5 or 6 narrow teeth, and the first branch internode is shorter than the stem sheath. Fertile and sterile stems also emerge at about the same time.

See Equisetum for comparison charts.

Leaves: Sheaths appearing at nodes along the stem contain 8-10 tiny, non-photosynthetic leaves, shaped like sharp dark spears.

Fruits: A conelike structure, the strobilus, about ¾-1" (2-3 cm) long appears at the tip of each fertile stem. The strobilus contains numerous tiny spores 35-45 µm in size.

Edibility: Not edible, but not toxic to humans except in large quantities. However, it is toxic Skull & Crossbones to horses, due to palustrin; and piperidine causes lameness in cattle.

Equisetum palustre (marsh horsetail)

From Lindman, Carl Axel Magnus, Bilder ur Nordens Flora, 1926

Online References:

Equisetum palustre on warbletoncouncil.org

Equisetum palustre on www.delta-intkey.com

Equisetum palustre on CalPhotos

Equisetum palustre at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Equisetum palustre at the Central Yukon Species Inventory Project

Equisetum palustre on Wikipedia

Equisetum palustre at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Cofrin Center for Biodiversity

Equisetum palustre on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants

Equisetum palustre on eFloras

References:

Cobb, Boughton, Farnsworth, Elizabeth & Lowe, Cheryl, Peterson Field Guides: A Field Guide to Ferns and Their Related Families of Northwestern and Central North America, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005, p. 348.

Equisetum palustre L. var. americanum Victorin

Equisetum palustre L. var. simplicissimum A. Braun

Equisetum palustre L. var. americanum Victorin

Equisetum palustre L. var. americanum Vict.

 

Equisetum palustre description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 1 Dec 2020.

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Equisetum palustre (marsh horsetail)

6/9/2016 · Monhegan Island, Maine

Equisetum palustre (marsh horsetail)

7/12/2020 · Harraseeket Trail, Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, Freeport, Maine
≈ 5 × 8" (13 × 20 cm)

Equisetum palustre (marsh horsetail)

5/13/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 11 × 16" (27 × 40 cm) ID is uncertain

Equisetum palustre (marsh horsetail)

5/23/2017 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts

Equisetum palustre (marsh horsetail)

7/12/2020 · Harraseeket Trail, Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, Freeport, Maine
≈ 7 × 4½" (18 × 12 cm)

Equisetum palustre (marsh horsetail)

5/13/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 14 × 9" (35 × 23 cm) ID is uncertain

Range:

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