Field horsetail in the landscape

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.

Field horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is a primitive perennial native to North America and Europe. Meadow pine, green foxtail rush, bottlebrush, and horse pipes are other common names for field horsetail. Each year, field horsetail produces two types of shoots: fertile and sterile. The fertile or reproductive stems are short-lived and die back to the ground after spores are produced. Afterwards, sterile stems emerge, grow erect to somewhat prostrate with numerous joint sections along each stem. At each joint, numerous whorls of slender, solid branches are produced. Field horsetail has a deeply positioned rhizome system that is comprised of creeping rhizomes and storage tubers. Rhizomes can reach up to 6 ft in depth in the soil profile. Rhizome fragments, as small as 1 inch, can produce new plants.

Control options for field horsetail are limited due to its extensive underground rhizome system. As with any perennial weed, several years of persistent control measures are needed to ensure success. Casoron is an excellent herbicide product for horsetail control; however, due to its residual activity, it will severely injure desirable plants placed in the treated soil for up to one year after treatment. Other herbicide options include MCPA and 2,4-D. Roundup is not considered a good, consistent control option for field horsetail. The benefit to these products are the ability to plant in the treated area relatively soon after application. As with any herbicide, consult the manufactures label for specific details. Mechanical control options include pulling of the shoots and/ or removal of the infested soil, but due to its rhizome system, soil would need to be removed to depth of at least 6 feet. If that is not possible, placing a geotextile fabric in a shallowly excavated area before backfilling with new soil would prevent rhizome from entering the bed. Fabric must be placed on the bottom as well as the sides of the hole. For more information about field horsetail, please contact Daniel Little at

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