Field horsetail grows from tuber-bearing rhizomes. It is dimorphic, growing two different type stems annually. In the early spring, white to tan colored fertile stems arise from the soil and grow to about 8-12 inches tall. They are unbranched, leafless and topped by a spore-bearing cone. These stems lack chlorophyll and die shortly after releasing their spores. Soon after the fertile stems die off, sterile stems emerge and grow up to 2 feet high. These stems are hollow, with ridges and whirls of feathery, leaf-like foliage. They can actually look somewhat similar to a small conifer or a bottle brush.
Field horsetail does not produce flowers; it reproduces by spores, horizontal rhizomes and tubers.
Favorable environment notes:
Field horsetail thrives in a variety of environments, but generally prefers more acidic and wet soil conditions with full sunlight. It can grow well in drier places once established and it is not uncommon to find horsetail growing in landscape beds, nursery crops, agricultural fields, wooded areas and along gravelly roadsides and easements. Field horsetail does not grow well in shaded areas and will eventually die out if not in adequate sunlight.Cultural and mechanical control methods have not been very successful.
Field horsetails main method of reproduction is through a spreading rhizome system producing numerous shoots and fleshy ½” tubers. The rhizomes are dark brown or blackish, 3 to 5 mm in diameter and covered with brownish hairs and can grow vertically to depths of six feet. They send out horizontal stems, easily spreading 2-3 feet. From these horizontal rhizomes, the above ground shoots emerge in the spring and summer. Tubers mainly act as carbohydrate storage but can produce new plants if removed from the rhizome. Tilling is an example of a way this would occur.
This plant is native to both North America and Europe and is one of only a few Equisetum survivors from the dinosaur era. Its hollow stems are structurally reinforced by silica grains. Because of this, it has been used in the past for scrubbing and cleaning pots, giving it another common name of scouring rush.