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Lycopod deut1

Lycopod deut2

Lycopod deut3

Baloskion (Restio) tetraphyllum




Horsetail (Equisetum species) are listed as noxious in Class 1 throughout NSW. Local Control Authorities must be notified of the presence of this weed, and it must be eradicated and the site kept free of the weed. It cannot be sold or propagated or knowingly distributed. It has been sold by nurseries in the past and has become established around Sydney (Equisetum arvense and E. hyemale). Another species, E. ramosissimum, has been recorded in northern NSW. Plants are still occasionally found in nurseries, despite the fact that it has long been listed as noxious. Horsetails are on the federal government alert list of 28 environmental weeds which currently have a limited Australian distribution but show considerable weed potential. The complete eradication of these species from Australia is highly desirable.


Horsetail plants consist of a mass of erect stems, connected by underground runners (rhizomes). In general appearance they are reminiscent of sheoak (Casuarina species) seedlings. Stems are annual and sprawling to erect, to about 50cm high and 5mm in diameter, green, hollow and grooved, jointed with toothed brownish sheaths at the joints. Fertile stems are whitish and succulent, appearing in early spring. Leaves are reduced to teeth arranged in whorls at each stem joint, but there is also a whorl of small branchlets at each joint. Horsetails are related to ferns and do not produce flowers. They reproduce by spores, which are produced in swellings at the tip of the fertile stems. The photos of horsetail were provided by RG & FJ Richardson of www.weedinfo.com.

preferred habitat and impacts

Horsetails are not genuinely aquatic, but they prefer moist soils where the water table is high, or drainage is impeded, where they can form very dense stands.

In other countries they are a serious weed of crops and pastures where they can substantially reduce yields. In Australia they have been found in a limited area in damp bushland, roadsides, stream banks and pasture, and have the potential to become serious pastoral weeds. They are poisonous to livestock.


Although numerous spores are produced the new plants are very prone to drying out and most reproduction is vegetative, although in suitable wet sites new plants may appear from spores. Horsetail spreads gradually via the rhizomes, which can penetrate the soil very deeply. It grows readily from broken off sections of stem or underground tubers, which may be moved around during earth-works or if contaminated soil is transported to other areas.


A slightly similar native is the sedge Baloskion tetraphyllum which has similar jointed stems, with whorls of feathery leaves. It grows next to streams or in wet soils and has become popular in nurseries for growing around water features.

The native branching clubmoss Lycopodium deuterodensum has a similar habit of sending up single stems from an underground rhizome, but its stems are branching. It tends to grow in sandy soils in areas of poor drainage on the coast.


Control is difficult because of the deep and extensive system of rhizomes and tubers. Cultivation will generally not be effective as plants readily resprout, and herbicides have been found to be variable in their effectiveness overseas. Mowing and burning have not been found to be effective. Insolation, or covering the infestation with heavy plastic which is maintained for several months may work, as might lowering the water level for a long time. If you suspect you have an outbreak of horsetail, notify your local weed control authority (usually Council) and take their advice on control methods.