Fight field horsetail

Fight field horsetail

The botanical definition of field horsetail

In order to know how best to use the field horsetail in the garden, it is an advantage to know it well. So let's first take a quick 360 ° look at it and put its key botanical data on the table.

also read

  • The heyday of field horsetail
  • Field horsetail is not poisonous
  • You can recognize field horsetail by these characteristics

The field horsetail forms different shoots in two phases. In spring, from March to May, it forms fertile, light brown spore shoots with a height of 5 to 20 cm with sporangia (spore containers) through which it reproduces generatively. After giving up their spores within about a month, they die and make way for the infertile / sterile, light green shoots. These are particularly noticeable because of their tiered whorls of knots. The shoots are about 30 to 50 centimeters high and light green in color.

The field horsetail has a few common names, the best known of which is probably 'horsetail'. It belongs to the genus of horsetail, botanically Equisetum and to the family of horsetail, botanically Equisetaceae. These in turn arise from the order of the horsetail-like (Equisetales), which belongs to the class of Equisetopsida. At the very beginning of the family tree, the threads come together with the ferns.


The paleobotany of the field horsetail

The taxonomy of the field horsetail, which is consistently pervaded by the name 'horsetail', shows how effective it has been through the history of the earth. Like ferns, they are, so to speak, a direct link to the beginnings of the flora of our planet. In contrast to today, the horsetail was a much more powerful and species-rich family of plants. The first horsetails are recorded for the geo-age of the upper Devonian approx. 375 million years ago. At that time, some species of horsetail rose to huge, tree-shaped growth forms up to 30 meters high with trunks up to one meter in diameter.

One property that has certainly contributed to the field horsetail's amazing survival efficiency is its roots in the soil. Its branched and hairy rhizomes penetrate up to 1.60 m deep into the ground and thus guarantee a reliable supply and strong vegetative reproduction. A privilege for the plant, a horror for the gardener.

Combat field horsetail effectively

fighting field horsetail

In fact, the field horsetail has a lot to offer the hobby gardener thanks to its survival strategy that has been tried and tested for thousands of years. Because it reproduces steadfastly and can hardly be broken down, it is considered one of the most unpopular weeds - both in private gardens and in agriculture. Depending on how ambitious and well-equipped you are, you can try to permanently eradicate the field horsetail or be content with combating the symptoms. Here is an overview of the possible methods and their advantages and disadvantages:

Soil looseningDig up rootsLime upRegular removal of shoots
advantagesPermanent solution, the weeds are deprived of their preferred soil properties in the long termPermanent solution, immediate control of the plantPermanent solution, also displaces moss and favors lawn grassLittle effort required, shoots can be retained and used for various medical, cosmetic and horticultural home remedies
disadvantageVery laborious and force-consuming, motorized device may be requiredPower-consuming, laborious, root residues sprouting again almost inevitableOnly gradual and not particularly intense effect, correct dosage somewhat difficultOnly combating symptoms, regular implementation necessary

Fighting causes

The field horsetail is largely resistant to superficial cutting or tearing, covering with weed fleece (€ 28.90 at Amazon *) and chemical herbicides. At least the results are not permanent, because new shoots keep shooting out of the rhizome roots. If you want to get rid of it for good, you have to develop other sides. The most effective methods are:

Four ways to control field horsetail
  • Soil loosening
  • Dig up roots
  • Lime up

Soil loosening

We now know that the greatest asset of the field horsetail is its strong rhizome, from which it can regenerate optimally. In order to combat it sustainably, it is precisely here that we must start. With its deep-reaching roots, field horsetail prefers to anchor itself in firm, loamy soils that hold a lot of water. That is why they often occur in areas that either naturally have this type of soil or in areas compacted by heavy vehicles.

In order to literally tackle the field horsetail problem at the root, it makes sense to loosen the soil. In this way, the plant is deprived of its preferred basic requirements. In agriculture, depth chisels are used for preventive control, which loosen the soil deeply with their long metal talons. Even in the private sector, especially in large areas, you can use a motorized device such as a tiller instead of a spade. Alternatively, you can also use deep-rooted, structure-loosening plants such as lupins. This method requires more patience, but less effort.

Loosening the soil down to the lower layers is particularly worthwhile for newly laid out garden plots. Often those from house construction are heavily compacted by construction vehicles and basically benefit from a complete loosening of the soil for the following years.

Dig up roots

In the course of mechanical or manual digging of the soil, you should also remove the roots of the field horsetail. Try to be as thorough as possible, because as with other plants with strong roots and hungry for survival (such as ivy), new shoots can also sprout from smaller remains.

Lime up

fighting field horsetail

Another way to permanently contain the field horsetail is to lime the soil. It no longer thrives so well in a slightly acidic to alkaline environment. Liming is particularly advisable when the weeds have spread through the lawn. Because a neutral to alkaline pH value can also push back moss, while it benefits lawn grasses and helps it to become more dominant. That is why liming is generally recommended as a means of strengthening the lawn.

However, you shouldn't just start liming, but dose carefully. Because an environment that is too alkaline is not good either and, above all, can even promote the moss again. It is advisable to do a soil sample first. To do this, you can purchase appropriate test sets in garden shops for little money. Since field horsetail prefers to grow on compacted soils, a low pH value is likely, as such soils are easily acidic. The pH value of compacted clay soils should be at least 6.5.

Combating symptoms

If the force-intensive digging or the patient cultivation of the soil with lupins or lime is too laborious, the field horsetail can also keep the surface in check.

However, only mechanical methods are suitable for this, i.e. tearing out or mowing the shoots. Covering with weed fleece or biological and chemical weed killers are not effective with horsetail.

If you cut the field horsetail, you can also take advantage of it. Because it has long been valued primarily as a medicinal plant.

Useful properties of field horsetail

fighting field horsetail

If you cannot defeat, you should make your friends.

This popular wisdom advises you to cooperate elegantly and wisely with adversities and opponents instead of doggedly and hopelessly fighting them. In this respect, it can be applied well to the fight against the field horsetail. Because there are quite a few reasons to consider him a friend.

Already about 2000 years ago mankind learned to use the valuable ingredients of the field horsetail for itself. To this day, the plant is used in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and even horticultural sectors. The substances from which one can benefit are above all silica, flavonoids, potassium, carboxylic acids and glycosides.

Seen in this way, weeds can become a real gift and pruning a grateful harvest instead of angry control.

Pharmaceutical use

Famous doctors, botanists, pharmacists and general scholars such as Dioscurides, Pliny, Paracelsus or Kneipp have contributed to the now well-established therapeutic role of the field horsetail. Until, the following properties are particularly valued:

  • astringent effect
  • cleansing effect
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Immune stimulation

Horsetail is particularly effective as a cleansing therapeutic agent for the blood, kidneys, bladder and stomach. It regulates the blood balance, i.e. improves the situation in the event of bleeding or anemia, and helps flush out ulcers and deposits of internal organs. Its soothing effect on rheumatic diseases and chronic coughs has also been confirmed. Those who have weak tendons or tendons that are heavily used as a sportsman can also benefit from the connective tissue-strengthening effect of the field horsetail. Externally, field horsetail unfolds its positive effects on inflammatory wounds and swellings.

The horsetail is mainly used in the form of tea for internal applications. To do this, add about 8 teaspoons of finely chopped green summer shoots to 500 milliliters of hot water, boil the whole thing and let it steep for 30 minutes. This is the best way to dissolve the silica. As a cure, drink 3 cups a day for 4-6 weeks, and for those suffering from rheumatism, tea is also recommended as a permanent drink.

This tea can also be used for external applications, for example by soaking cloth wraps in it and placing them on poorly healing wounds. You can use it to make mouthwashes for inflammation in the mouth and gargle for persistent coughs. You can also prepare poultices for swelling.

Field horsetail in cosmetics

In the cosmetic field, horsetail is above all a valuable supporter of connective tissue. Its high content of silica, flavonoids and trace elements benefits skin, hair and nails, strengthens and tightens them and can therefore be considered an effective, natural beauty and anti-aging agent.

The tea described above is also a tried and tested preparation method for these cosmetic purposes. To strengthen the connective tissue, it unfolds its effect both externally and internally.

Plant care with field horsetail

Horsetail can even be converted from annoying to beneficial in the garden. Because its high silica content also strengthens the cell structure of useful and ornamental plants, forms a crystalline protective layer on the leaves, making them less vulnerable to fungal diseases and sucking pests. Powdery mildew, star soot or rose rust and aphids can be effectively prevented with a homemade broth, liquid manure or a cold extract from field horsetail.

For the broth, soak 750 grams of chopped horsetail in 5 liters of water for 24 hours. Then bring the mixture to the boil, simmer for half an hour and then cool. Dilute the sieved brew in a ratio of 1: 5 with water. Filled in a flower syringe, you can use it to regularly treat plants suffering from fungal diseases. As a preventive measure, it is best to spray once a week in spring before the respective leaf shoots.

After the leaves have sprout, the treatment can be continued as an acute measure, in which case a lot of thoroughness is required for a successful effect. This means that the leaves of the plant always have to be sprayed completely and dripping wet, and after-spraying is always necessary after rain and prolonged intense sunlight.


frequently asked Questions

How do I recognize horsetail?

Field horsetail shows itself for most of the vegetation period with light green, 30 to 50 cm high shoots, on which slightly upright, lively, branched, tiered branches sit. The stems have a diameter of 3-5 millimeters, are ribbed and hollow on the inside. In spring, around March to May, the field horsetail appears with fertile shoots in a light brown color, on which there are 4 to 6 sheaths instead of the twirls. A sporangial ear is enthroned on top, resembling spike flowers like those of ribwort.

What is the most effective way to control horsetail?

Field horsetail has very deep roots and can therefore only be dammed permanently with great effort. The long-term success can be expected when the soil is loosened, because the weeds need dense, loamy soil. In the course of this, the roots should also be dug out as completely as possible. Liming the soil is also helpful for permanent control. Only cutting off or tearing out the above-ground shoots is suitable as symptom control measures. Herbicides or weed control are largely ineffective.

How to make tea from field horsetail

Tea made from horsetail has many positive properties and can be used for both medicinal and cosmetic purposes. To prepare it, cut a good handful of the sterile, green field horsetail into small pieces and add 8 teaspoons of it to half a liter of hot water. Then you boil the whole thing up and let it steep for half an hour.

Is field horsetail poisonous?

No, field horsetail, Equisetum arvense, is not poisonous. However, there is a fairly high risk of confusion with the poisonous marsh horsetail.

What can horsetail be confused with?

Field horsetail can easily be confused with the related marsh horsetail by laypeople. It not only looks very similar to its conspecifics, but also grows in similar locations, sometimes the two species even keep company. In general, however, marsh horsetail is found in wetter areas than field horsetail, according to its name. The species can be identified more reliably by their appearance, more precisely by the cross-section of the stem. It is significantly larger in field horsetail than in swamp horsetail.