Equisetum scirpoides : Dwarf 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: scirpoides (Lat. scirpus = sedge + oides = like)

English Name(s):

Dwarf Scouring Rush,

First Nation Names:



  • Plants can be mat-forming, ascending to prostrate (horizontal).
  • Stems all alike, 6, or rarely 8, ridges.
  • Stems solid, no central cavity.


  • Reduced to sheaths with 3, or rarely 4, teeth.

Reproductive Parts:

  • Strobili (spore cones) small, 2-5 mm long, short-stalked, at tip of stems.


Not to Be Confused With:

  • E. variegatum, which has stems with 6 to 8 teeth, is generally larger and more erect, and has a central cavity 1/3 the diameter of stem.



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

Life Cycle:

Seasonal Cycle:

  • Evergreen
  • Spores shed from July through August, or persisting unopened until the following summer.


Animal Uses:


    • Tundra, mossy places, and woods. Stems often partly buried in humus.





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


    • 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 coarse green stems are used to scrub pots and clean dishes.


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


      • The root tubercles can be eaten raw.

      Traditional Other:


      • The Aleut fed a decoction of these plants to a hated guest as a magical poison.



        • A decoction of the stalks is said to be calcium-rich and and were once considered beneficial as a hair wash, or if taken as a tonic was considered good for fingernails and teeth.
        • Ash of Horsetail stems (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 were bruised and used as a poultice for treating blood poisoning and to stop the swelling of eyelids.
        • 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 to some native groups. They are collected in the spring by water, and are sweet and juicy then, much relished as the first fruit of the season.


        Plant in mossy habitat

        Very typical-looking

        Good view of strobili (spore cones). These plants are much more erect and robust than usual E. sc

        These E. scirpoides plants look almost like E. variegatum. Note the 4 teeth on the sheaths.

        Illustration from: Illustrated Flora of BC

        Range Maps

        World Range: Circumpolar, in N.A. from Labrador to Alaska south to New England and Idaho.

        Prov/State Abrev. List

        In Yukon: Found throughout the Territory.

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