Hippuris vulgaris

Mare's Tail

Mare's Tail, Photo Courtesy USDA Plants Database
Mare's Tail
Photo Courtesy USDA Plants Database

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The natural history of the northwoods


  • Hippuris, from the Greek, `ippouris (hippouris), "horse-tailed". Occurring frequently in Homer, it is also used for naming plants of the genus Equisetum, which we know as the Horsetails.
  • vulgaris, from the Latin, "ordinary, common"
  • Common name from the perceived resemblance to the tail of the female horse.
  • Other common names include:Female Horsetail, Marsh Barren Horsetail, Hestehale,Vandspir (Dan), Harilik Kuuskhein, Vesikuusk, Murukuusk, Merikuusk, Jõenõgesse (Est), Lamparevesikuusi (Fin), Earball Capaill (Gaelic), Tannenwedel (Ger), Tasiup naanii (Greenland), Lófótur (Is), Lidsteng (NL), Hesterumpe (Nor), Przêstka pospolita (Pol), Corregüela hembra (Sp), Hästsvans, Hästsvansört, Kärrgran, Ledgräs, Ledört, Vattengran (Swe), Truskavec Obyèajný (Slovak)


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
      • Class Magnoliopsida, the Dicotyledons
      • Subclass Asteridae
        • Order Callitrichales
          • Family Hippuridaceae, the Mare's Tails
            • Genus Hippuris, the Mare's Tails
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 27069


  • A creeping, perennial herb of shallow waters and mud flats.
  • Leaves Leaves in whorls of 6-12, sessile,
    • Emergent leaves linear to linear-oblong, ¼"-1" long, 0.5mm-3 mm wide, blunt and hard tipped
    • Submerged leaves, when present, thin and flaccid, mostly more elongate than the emergent leaves. When the plant grows in deep streams, often 2"-3" long, paler and broader than those above water.
  • Stem simple, erect or sometimes curved and recurved, unbranched, except at the base, and tapering to a point, to 24" tall; densely clothed by the closely spaced whorls of leaves. In stagnant water it grows erect, in running water it bends with the current, prostrate on the surface. In shallows, upper part of stem is stout and projects out of the water to a height of 8"-12", or more.
  • Rhizomes stout, spongy, and creeping.
    • Flowers perfect, minute and inconspicuous, sessile and solitary in the upper axils; often not produced.
    • Sepals absent
    • Petals absent
    • Stamens 1; some flowers often without stamens; anthers red
    • Style 1
    • Ovary inferior (below flower), single chambered
  • Fruit nut-like, oval, 2 mm long, and about 1mm thick.
  • Seed single


  • Unlike any other flowering plant in the North Country
  • Distinguished from the unrelated but in some ways similar in appearence Horsetails (Equisetum spp.) by its unjointed stem which is not hollow.


  • Circumboreal; in North America south to Maine, New York, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Arizona.
  • Also Eurasia.


  • Shallow water or muddy margins of lakes, ponds, marshes, and streams.
  • Prefers non-acidic waters.


  • Trees:
  • Shrubs:
  • Herbs:
  • Ground Covers:
  • Mammals:
  • Birds:


  • The old European herbalists recommended it for a number of uses, including:
    • stopping internal and external bleeding
    • stomach ulcers
    • strengthening the intestines
    • closing wounds
    • inflamation and breakouts on the skin
    • coughs
  • It has been said to assist in purifying the putrid air of marshes by absorbing large quantities of marsh gas.


  • In some countries it is a troublesome weed in rivers and chokes up ditches.


  • By seed (rare)
    • Flowers June-September
  • Vegetatively by rhizome (common)


  • By division of rhizomes


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • Cultural Requirements
    • Full sun; dislikes shade
    • Soil muddy, base-rich
    • Water shallow, still
  • Spreads and can be invasive



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Last updated on 26 February, 2004