Rough horsetail (Equisetum hyemale). Photo: Clayson Howell (DOC)
Horsetails do not naturally occur in New Zealand but the 25 or so species are predominantly found in the temperate northern regions. Some of the most widely known species are Equisetum arvense (field or common horsetail), E. sylvaticum (wood horsetail) and E. hyemale (rough horsetail).
They belong to a family of plants (Equisetaceae) that reproduces by spores and are most closely allied to ferns. This class of plants includes only a single genus, Equisetum, the name derived from the Latin words equus (a horse) and seta (a bristle) which refers to the peculiarly bristly appearance of the jointed stems of the plants - hence their common name horsetail.
Most species inhabit wet areas and flourish where they can lodge their perennial roots in water.
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This page last updated on 30 Nov 2013