Family:
Equisetaceae
Toxins:
thiaminase
Flower Color:
  • flower color
Type:
forb
Found:
waterside, wasteareas, woodlands, wetlands

Time of Greatest Risk

JFMAMJJASOND

Geographical Distribution

Horsetail distribution - United States

Horsetail

Equisetum hyemale

Canuela, Monkey Grass, Snake Grass, Scouring Rush
6/ 10
Horsetails (Equisetum hyemale) are non-woody, erect, long-lived, fern-like perennials composed of more than 30 species in the genus. Equisetum hyemale is native to the northern hemisphere including Europe, North America and Asia. It is a highly aggressive plant, and considered to be a trouble-some weed in most regions. Once established, E. hyemale can be very difficult to remove due to its extensive spreading rhizome system that produces numerous shoots and tubers. E. hyemale can grow in a variety of different habitats, however it thrives in wet, poorly drained areas of fields and grasslands, wet meadows, adjacent water bodies (streams, creeks, rivers, etc.) and other sites with high water tables as well as along roadsides, railroad tracks and beaches. It can even grow in up to 4 inches of standing water. It is most frequently found growing in acidic and wet soils. E. hyemale does not produce any flowers or seeds as it reproduces by spores, horizontal rhizomes and tubers.

Toxic components
Equisetum spp contains multiple chemical compounds, such as silicates, aconitic acid, palmitic acid, nicotine, 3-methyloxypyridine, equisitine, palustrine, dimethylsulfone and thiaminase. However, thiaminase is the chemical of primary concern for horses. Thiaminase is an enzyme that destroys thiamine, an important B vitamin that is needed for proper brain function. Although Equisetum spp are found in pastures, which is a concern, the bigger concern is horsetails in hay, as it remains toxic even when dried.

Symptoms of poisoning in horses' develop slowly, and begin with unthrifty appearance, weight loss without loss in appetite, diarrhea, and slight incoordination. Without treatment, signs will progress to more extreme--leading to balance problems and loss of control of muscle movement, eventually leading to death in approximately 1-2 weeks.

Symptoms

  • Unthrifty Appearance
  • Weight Loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Incoordination
  • Loss Of Muscle Control
  • Staggering Gait
  • Nervousness
  • Seizures
  • Inability To Rise
  • Death

Control

Control of horsetail is not easy. The plant has rhizomes that, when cut up by mechanical removal, can distribute the plant to other areas. Draining excess water from marshy areas may help. The ideal method of control is to cut horsetails when they are young and growing, before maturity and spore distribution.

References