Thomas J. Elpel's
Web World Portal

Wildflower Logo.
Wildflowers & Weeds

Facebook Button.
Banner Image.  
Plant Identification, Edible Plants, Weed Ecology, Mushrooms, and more.
Home | Plant Identification | Plant Families Gallery | Edible Plants | Mushrooms | Links
Desertification & Weed Ecology | Weed Profiles | E-Mail | Search this Site
Equisetaceae: Horsetail Family Plant Identification Characteristics.

Plants of the Horsetail Family

      The horsetail produces two different stalks. One is the fertile "joint-grass", the other is the sterile "horse-tail." The fertile stalk produces a cone-like structure at the top, which is covered with spore-producing scales. The spores are wrapped with small bands. These bands unwrap in dry weather to function as a parachute to carry the spores on the wind. Multiple spores frequently become entangled and travel together. The spores germinate into a thallus, cross-fertilize, then develop into a new plant. The word thallus is used to describe a plant part that is not differentiated into leaves or a stem.

      The Horsetail family is small, comprised of 1 genus and 23 species worldwide. In earlier times this group was much larger and more diverse, with many species growing into giant trees. These ancient plants formed a significant portion of our coal deposits. Some deposits consist principally of compressed masses of spores. This rock is called "cannel". It can be cut and polished for ornaments.

      Today there is only one tree-like species of horsetail. It is a native of the American tropics and grows to about thirty feet tall. The horsetails have an abrasive quality to them because they absorb silica from the soil to give strength to the plant structure.

Please e-mail Thomas J. Elpel to report mistakes or to inquire about purchasing high resolution photos of these plants.

Equisetum arvense. Field Horsetail.

Equisetum arvense. Field Horsetail. Photographed in the Methow Valley, Washington.

Equisetum arvense. Field Horsetail.

Equisetum arvense.Field Horsetail. Photographed in the Methow Valley, Washington.

Equisetum sp. Horsetail.

Equisetum sp. Horsetail. Photographed along the northern California coast. Other species across North America are similar in appearance but often smaller in size.

Sunlight shining through horsetail stalks.

Equisetum sp. Sunlight shining through horsetail stalks.

There are more
Horsetail Family pictures

Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
Identify plants with
Botany in a Day
Foraging the Mountain West
Start feasting with
Foraging the Mountain West

Return to the Plant Families Index
Return to the Wildflowers & Weeds Home Page

      Looking for life-changing resources? Check out these books by Thomas J. Elpel:

Green Prosperity: Quit Your Job, Live Your Dreams.
Roadmap to Reality: Consciousness, Worldviews, and the Blossoming of Human Spirit
to Reality
Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.
in Nature
Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
Mountain West
Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
in a Day
Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids

Portal Icon.
Return to Thomas J. Elpel's
Web World Portal | Web World Tunnel

Thomas J. Elpel's Web World Pages
About Tom | Green University®, LLC
HOPS Press, LLC | Dirt Cheap Builder Books
Primitive Living Skills | Outdoor Wilderness Living School, LLC
Wildflowers & Weeds | Jefferson River Canoe Trail
Roadmap To Reality | What's New?

© 1997 - 2021 Thomas J. Elpel