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Common Name: Meadow Horsetail
Equisetum pratense is a perennial plant that can grow up to 0.60 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine
Large quantities of the plant can be toxic. This is because it contains the enzyme thiaminase[
], a substance that can rob the body of the vitamin B complex[
]. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase[
The plant also contains equisetic acid - see the notes on medicinal uses for more information[
Arctic and temperate regions of Europe, including Britain, N. America, central and northern Asia.
Grassy stream banks, up to 900 metres[
Prefers a moist soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5[
Plants are hardy to about -30°c[
Plants have a deep and penetrating root system and can be invasive. If grown in the garden they are best kept in bounds by planting them in a large container which can be sunk into the ground[
Roots - raw or cooked[
]. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.
A further report says that the peeled stems, base of the plant, root and tubers were eaten raw by the N. American Indians, the report went on to say that this may be inadvisable[
Horsetails have an unusual chemistry compared to most other plants[
]. They are rich in silica, contain several alkaloids (including nicotine) and various minerals[
Spores - best collected as soon as they are ripe in the spring and surface-sown immediately on a sterile compost. Keep moist and pot up as soon as the plants are large enough to handle. Very difficult[
Division. The plants usually spread very freely when well sited and should not really need any assistance.