Not sure how to deal with Horsetail? As the UK’s leading invasive plant removal company, we’re here to help with advice and provide a complete treatment & removal package tailored to your needs
What is Horsetail?
Horsetail is one of the oldest plants on planet Earth and it spreads in two distinct ways. First, it produces spores in the early to late spring which can then be dispersed in the wind. Second, more locally, its root system is an ever-expanding network of rhizomes. With the Common Horsetail what you can’t see is how pervasive this growth is.
Horsetail plants are often confused with Marestail. The two are completely different. Marestail is an aquatic plant and, while it may superficially resemble Horsetail, there are major differences. The biggest one is that Marestail is a flowering plant whereas Horsetail is not.
What does it look like?
Horsetail is usually described as having fir-tree-like shoots, but its appearance does change slightly over the seasons. In spring, when new growth begins, the stems will develop a cone of spores at the top which makes it look very distinctive. Once the spores are released, the stems turn from a brown colour to green.
Like Japanese knotweed, common Horsetail has a root system that is comprised of rhizomes. These can spread out quite quickly but also grow deep in the ground if not treated quickly. While about half of the rhizomes are near the surface, many could be up to 2 metres underground. Unfortunately, if even a small part of a rhizome survives it can start to grow again which means removing those deep-set elements is essential if you want to prevent further growth.
Not only that, but the rhizomes are also fibrous and very thin and therefore difficult to remove without causing further damage. Horsetail is strong enough to break through materials like paving and tarmac. Early signs of Horsetail damage can be as small as a crack in the path. It does not have a reputation for directly damaging foundations like some tree roots can. Unlike the extensive root systems of large trees, Horsetail’s roots are generally not strong or deep enough to cause significant physical damage to building foundations.
But that does not mean it should be ignored. To prevent potential issues, it’s essential to manage horsetail growth as well as maintaining proper drainage, fixing leaks, and ensuring good soil grading away from the building to protect your foundations.
The Horsetail plant above ground also forms dense clusters that smother other plant life and can have a severe impact on local ecosystems. When Field Horsetail infests waste ground and construction sites it can be difficult to get rid of as well as costly.
While Common Horsetail is considered by many to be an invasive and damaging plant, as a native species it is not included in Section 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is therefore not against the law to have it on your property.
Some local councils do have rules and regulations concerning Horsetail sightings and who you should notify, but this is mostly focused on public areas such as parks, roads and paths.
If you do have Horsetail on your property and it spreads to a neighbour’s garden and then causes damage, you may be liable if they decide to take you to court. Even without the threat of legal action, if you spot common Horsetail in your garden you should attempt to get rid of it as soon as possible.
Use our extensive guide to identify Horsetail
What does Horsetail look like?
Prevent costly damage to your property
How to get rid of Horsetail?
Most homeowners and some businesses will attempt DIY solutions first – that’s understandable as it saves money. You can start by digging up the soil where you see the external signs of Horsetail growth and hopefully remove as much of the rhizome network as you can. You can also use herbicides to try and kill off any growth underground that you were not able to get to. Unfortunately, this is not that effective and what you may well find is that, after a short break, you begin to see new growth.
Your option then might be to control the growth by regularly checking the garden for new growth and continually digging up and adding herbicide. Over several years this might lead to a complete removal of the Horsetail plant, but it is by no means certain.
It’s also important if you are controlling growth, to keep your eyes open during spring for the return of the spore cones and to remove these as soon as you spot them. You should make sure that you dispose of any waste belonging to the Horsetail plant with a licenced garden waste business in your area.
Due to the plant’s aggressive nature, the best option is to get a professional removal company, experienced in dealing with invasive species to remove the Horsetail. They will first assess the size of the problem and provide you with a plan going forward. This can depend not just on the size of the infestation but on its location.
If it’s a domestic garden, for example, full excavation might not be possible to remove all the rhizomes deep in the ground because of pipework and other infrastructure. In this case, the team might suggest partial excavation in order to remove as much as possible followed by specialist herbicides to kill off the remaining Horsetail rhizomes.
In areas like construction sites and wasteland, Horsetail infestations can take over large areas very quickly and the only viable option is to dig out the ground and remove it completely using heavy machinery.
Left unattended, common Horsetail can cause significant issues.
With 25 years’ experience in the industry, Environet is the UK’s leading invasive plant removal company. During this time, we’ve been dealing with some of the UK’s most common non-native invasive plants including Japanese knotweed, Bamboo, Giant hogweed and, of course, Horsetail.
We work with both residential and commercial clients and provide tailored solutions to suit your needs.
For more information, contact us today.
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