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Equisetum pratense Ehrh.

Meadow 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
SpeciespratenseGrowing in meadows

About plant names...

Meadow horsetails, like other members of the genus, prefer moist habitats such as woods, thickets, river edges, and meadows, in sunlight or partial shade.

Plants: Meadow horsetails have thin light green fragile-looking branches, in symmetric whorls off the main stem, and don’t exceed about 24" (60 cm) in height. Branches tend to be straight, or to droop somewhat, while in other species the branches are ascending. Stems are ¹/₃₂-⅛" (1-4 mm) in diameter, with 8-18 ridges. A cross-section of a sterile stem reveals that up to half the diameter of the stem is hollow, more so than with marsh horsetail. Fertile stems are 8-10" (20-25 cm) tall, and pale pink or brownish at first, tipped by a cone-like sporangia. After fruiting, though, the fertile stems become green and develop branches, looking like the sterile stems. Sterile stems are 8-24" (20-60 cm) tall, and very rough.

See Equisetum for a comparison chart.

Leaves: Tiny, non-photosynthetic leaves called scales are fused to the stem at branch nodes, or sheaths. Sheaths are ¹/₁₆-⅛" (2-6 mm) long, with 8-10 brown, white-edged teeth.

Fruits: Fertile stems are tipped by a single blunt-tipped cone-like strobilus, ½-1½" (1.5-4 cm) long, atop a stalk. Spores are released in April.

Edibility: These aren’t eaten by people, but caribou, moose, grizzly bears, geese, and sheep consume it. (Horses may consume this, but some species of Equisetum are toxic to horses.)

Equisetum pratense (meadow horsetail)

From Thomé, Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm, Flora von Deutschland Österreich und der Schweiz., 1885

Online References:

Equisetum pratense at Minnesota Wildflowers

Equisetum pratense on BorealForest.org

Equisetum pratense on www.delta-intkey.com

Equisetum pratense on Earl J.S. Rook's Flora, Fauna, Earth, and Sky ... The Natural History of the Northwoods

Equisetum pratense at the Central Yukon Species Inventory Project

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

Equisetum pratense at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Equisetum pratense on Flora of Iceland

Equisetum pratense on SEINet—the Southwest Environmental Information Network

Equisetum on Discover Life

Equisetum pratense on gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org

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. 350

Equisetum pratense (meadow horsetail)

9/29/2013 · Compass Harbor, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine
≈ 8 × 6" (20 × 14 cm) ID is uncertain

Equisetum pratense (meadow horsetail)

5/9/2012 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 12 × 8" (31 × 20 cm) ID is uncertain

Equisetum pratense (meadow horsetail)

4/30/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Ayer, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 7 × 11" (18 × 27 cm) ID is uncertain

Equisetum pratense (meadow horsetail)

5/21/2013 · Beaver Brook Assn Conservation Lands, Rte. 130, Hollis, New Hamp­shire
≈ 12 × 8" (31 × 21 cm)

Equisetum pratense (meadow horsetail)

8/17/2020 · Otter Brook Preserve, Harpswell, Maine
≈ 8 × 5" (20 × 13 cm)

Equisetum pratense (meadow horsetail)

5/2/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 10 × 14" (26 × 35 cm) ID is uncertain

 

Equisetum pratense description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 23 Aug 2021.

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Equisetum pratense (meadow horsetail)

8/17/2020 · Otter Brook Preserve, Harpswell, Maine
≈ 7 × 6" (17 × 16 cm)

Equisetum pratense (meadow horsetail)

5/13/2021 · Otter Brook Preserve, Harpswell, Maine
≈ 5 × 6" (13 × 16 cm)

Equisetum pratense (meadow horsetail)

8/2/2009 · Gordon & Kathy’s, Prospect, Maine
≈ 10 × 10" (25 × 26 cm) ID is uncertain

Equisetum pratense (meadow horsetail)

About 8 x 5" · 9/4/2010 · Old Rail Trail near Wilkins Farm, Pepperell, Mass­a­chu­setts ID is uncertain

Equisetum pratense (meadow horsetail)

5/13/2021 · Otter Brook Preserve, Harpswell, Maine
≈ 6 × 8" (16 × 19 cm)

Equisetum pratense (meadow horsetail)

8/30/2010 · Old RR bed near Wilkins Farm, Pepperell, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 9 × 12" (23 × 31 cm) ID is uncertain

Equisetum pratense (meadow horsetail)

5/13/2021 · Otter Brook Preserve, Harpswell, Maine
≈ 4½ × 6" (12 × 15 cm)

Equisetum pratense (meadow horsetail)

6/20/2021 · Heath, Cathance River Nature Preserve, Highland Green, Topsham, Maine
≈ 6 × 4" (16 × 10 cm)

Equisetum pratense (meadow horsetail)

9/29/2013 · Compass Harbor, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine
≈ 6 × 8" (14 × 20 cm) ID is uncertain

Range:

About this map...