Equisetum hyemale : Scouring-rush


Scientific Name:

Kingdom: Plantae


Class: Equisetopsida (Horsetail class)

Family: Equisetaceae (Horsetail Family)

Genera: Equisetum (Horsetails) (Lat. equis = horse + seta = hair, alluding to the resemblance of some species to a horses' tail.)

Species: hyemale

Synonym(s): E. prealtum, Hyppochaete hyemalis

English Name(s):


First Nation Names:



  • Central cavity 3/4 or more of the diameter of the stem.
  • Stems branchless, up to 1.2 meters long sometimes longer, and 3mm-10mm thick.


  • Shethes constructed at base, same colour as stem when young becoming dark bands when older.

Reproductive Parts:


  • Spores having elaters (4 spirally-wound filaments).

Not to Be Confused With:

  • E.fluviatile which is shorter, deciduous, and sometimes has branches.



  • Elaters (4 spirally-wound filaments) of each spore, respond to humidity by expanding suddenly and throwing the spore out of the strobilus (spore cone).
  • Horsetails (Equisetum spp.) bioaccumulate zinc.

Life Cycle:

Seasonal Cycle:

  • Evergreen.
  • Spores shed from June to September.
  • Spores sometimes not shed until spring.


Animal Uses:

  • Equisetum spp. are favorite food of geese and other waterfowl.
  • Possibly eaten by muskrat as well.


  • Sandy or gravelly river teraces, sand bars, lakeshores, old fields, and ditches.




  • Plants used for dyeing yarn. This is done by layering wool or yarn with Horsetail (Equisetum spp.), with about a 10:1 ratio of Horsetail:yarn, boiling 30 minutes, then drying in the shade.
  • The coarse green stems are used to scrub pots and clean dishes.


  • Green plants, because of their silica content, are used for eye treatments and skin disorders.
  • Sterile plants can be used to make an infusion that is said to be effective in combating offensive odour.
  • They are also taken internally, 1 mouthful 4 times daily, to relieve painful or difficult urination or bleeding of the stomach or intestinal tract.


  • Sterile stems are dried, ground to a powder, and used for thickening or to make a mush.
  • This powder has also been used to make a tea and is sold in some grocery stores.

Traditional Gwich'in:




      • The leaves and stems can be steamed for nasal congestion, colds, and stomach ailments.


      • The root tubercles can be eaten raw.

      Traditional Other:




          • Ash of the stems of horsetails (Equisetum spp.) was used alone or with grease as a poultice on burns or sores.
          • Plant decoction was used as a contraceptive, to initiate abortion, to stimulate menstruation and to relieve bladder problems.
          • Roots were heated and placed against aching teeth.
          • Stems bruised were used as a poultice for treating blood poisoning and to stop the swelling of eye lids.
          • Sterile stalks were used as an astringent to stop the spitting of blood.


          • Underground stems and roots are eaten raw, with or without lard and are sometimes put in "Indian ice-cream".
          • Underground stems and roots are food for some aboriginal groups. They are collected in the spring by water and are sweet and juicy then.


          Plants in typical wet sandy habitat

          Strobili (spore cone)

          Young plant sprouting

          Illustration from: Illustrated Flora of BC

          Range Maps

          World Range: Circumpolar; In N.A. our subspecies(ssp.affinis) ranges from NL to AK south to NM and TX.

          Prov/State Abrev. List

          In Yukon: Local Occurences as far north as the Bell River. Most common along Yukon River in Central Yukon.

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