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Home > Landscaping > Native Plants for Western Washington Gardens and Restoration Projects



Equisetum telmatiea

Giant Horsetail

This species does not produce flowers
Full sun Mostly sunny
Wet soil Moist soil


At a Glance: More robust and larger than common horsetail. Sheaths around its sterile stems have 14-18 teeth.

Height: 3-7.5 (10) feet tall; 1-2.3 (3) meters tall.
Growth Form: Fern.
Stems: Proportionately stouter, and always erect - never sprawling weakly. Fertile stems appear before sterile stems, unbranched, to 60 cm (2 ft) tall; spore cone at tip. New shoots emerge mid-February to early May.
Leaves: Reduced to tiny scales that are fused into 20-30 sheaths at stem nodes. Dense whorls of branches (often mistaken for leaves) form at stem nodes; shape: sterile stems branched, hollow; size: sheaths to 2.5 cm (1 in) long; color: green.
Flowers: Horsetails reproduce by spores, and do not have flowers; green spores are produced in flesh-colored cone at tip of fertile stem.
Flowering Period: none.
Fruits: blunt-tipped cones; size: cones to 10 cm (4 in) long; color: whitish to flesh colored (become brownish just before withering).

Equisetum telmatiea
Photo © Starflower Foundation
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Sun/Shade Tolerance Hydrology Elevation Range
full sun > 80%
mostly sunny 60%-80%
partial sun and shade 40%- 60%
mostly shady 60%-80%
full shade > 80%

common in areas with high water tables.

wet
moist
dry

Wetland Indicator Status:
FACW (facultative wetland)
Below 1000 meters.

low elevation
mid elevation
sub-alpine
high elevation


Soil Preferences
sandy soils
gravelly soils
clay soils
muddy soils
peaty soils
well drained soils
shallow soils
deep soils
acidic soils
basic soils
humic soils
nutrient rich soils
nutrient poor soils
mineral soils
organic soils

Habitat Preferences
Aquatic and Wetland:
Ponds or lakes
Shallow pools
Sloughs
Swales or wet ditches
Seasonally inundated areas
Marshes or swamps
Aquatic bed wetlands
Emergent wetlands
Scrub-shrub wetlands
Forested wetlands
Bogs, fens
Seeps, springs
Shorelines and Riparian:
Lake shores
Bog margins
Streams or rivers
Stream or river banks
Riparian corridors
River bars
Floodplains
Bottomlands
Alluvial areas
Saltwater Areas:
In or near saltwater
Mud flats
Tidal areas
Estuaries
Saltmarshes
Brackish water
Seashores
Coastal dunes or beaches
Rocky or Gravelly Areas:
Coastal bluffs
Cliffs
Rocky slopes
Outcrops
Crevices
Glacial outwash
Gullies
Slide areas
Sub-alpine and Alpine:
Heaths
Snow beds
Tundra
Avalanche tracks
Forests and Thickets:
Forests and woods
Open forests
Coniferous forests
Old growth forests
Deciduous forests
Mixed forests
Nurse logs
Forest edges, openings, or clearings
Thickets
Meadows and Fields:
Pastures or fields
Meadows or grassy areas
Mossy areas
Disturbed Areas:
Roadsides
Trailsides
Logged sites
Burned areas
Disturbed sites


Wildlife Value
(data not available)

Ethnobotanical Uses and Other Facts
Food Uses: Preferred horsetail for native groups of the coast. The young spore bearing and vegetative shoots of the giant horsetail were an important springtime vegetable of some Coast Salish and Nuu-chah-nulth peoples. They were picked when young and eaten raw, sometimes with oil, after the papery sheaths head been removed.
Toxicity: Poisonous to horses and livestock. Probably poisonous to humans also, if eaten in large quantities..

Landscape Uses: Good for stabilizing or restoring disturbed or degraded (including logged or burned) areas, for erosion and slope control, for wildlife food or cover, etc. May be less suitable for garden use.
Ecological Importance: Often forms dense colonies.

Name Info: The epithet Temateia is an old name that means "of muddy water or marshes." Called Giant Horsetail because of its size.
Interesting Facts: Horsetails are a very ancient group of plants that grew to the size of trees when dinosaurs roamed the earth.



Suggested References



The landscaping and restoration information provided on this page is taken from the Starflower Foundation Image Herbarium. All photographs © Starflower Foundation unless otherwise noted.