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566 illustration

Field horsetail

Equisetum arvense

The field horsetail is a perennial plant with two types of hollow stems. The leafless, fertile stems are light brown in colour and are the first to appear in the spring. These stems soon die back after shedding their brown spore cones. The sterile green stems start to grow after the fertile stems have wilted. They produce whorls of green, four-angled, leaf-like shoots. These are covered with silica crystals, which make them rough to the touch. In the past they were used for scouring cooking pots. The extensive system of roots and rhizomes remains alive deep in the soil after the stems have died down.

This plant is found throughout most of Europe in open fields, along roads and riverbanks and on land that has been disturbed, usually in moist soils.

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