2024-04-22March 25, 20242024-03-25
Horsetail – How to weed out the problem

What do you do when you have an invasion of Horsetail on your site?


Equisetum arvense, commonly known as Horsetail can be a proverbial thorn in the side to developers, but there are ways to deal with it that will benefit your budget and the environment. The weed has been around for literally millions of years, since the Palaeozoic era (541m to 252m years ago) and has been around since before the dinosaurs. Thankfully today it doesn’t grow as tall as the 98 feet it grew to in pre-historic times.

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Although there isn’t a fast remedy, there is a remedy and with a little patience, it can be controlled.

Horsetail has deep roots and spreads its spores which enable it to spread quickly and form a dense carpet up to 20 inches high (more easily controlled than 98 feet). Developers would need to remove it from a building site and prove it has been properly dealt with to satisfy planning, building control and certification bodies.

One of the main problems with Horsetail is the length of the roots, which can reach up to 7 feet below surface and if not sufficiently dug out can quickly re-establish themselves again. Another problem with the fern-like plant is its strength and resilience which can see it growing through tarmac and can be problematic on a building site as it is costly and can cause delays to development.

The most common way of dealing with an invasion is to dig it out, but this course of action can bring other problems such as what to do with it once it has been removed. Landfills have become expensive and so are the costs associated with transporting it in a compliant manner. These costs can spiral enough to make a site commercially unviable in some cases.

The digging out method should actually be a last resort. An invasion can be tackled by other means that are more economical and environmentally friendly.

Tackling Horsetail effectively

Step 1 – Local Authorities want to see a sustainability and management plan that will ensure that the Horsetail will be dealt with efficiently to keep it at bay, taking into account the plant’s durable and persistent nature.

Step 2 – Although this step might not sound like sense, it involves keeping the horsetail debris onsite – effectively removing the need to have it transported and dumped. The retained Horsetail can then be either stockpiled for landscaping (after effecting a suitable barrier to stop it spreading) or it can be directed towards green areas that are regularly mowed. Mowing the Horsetail weakens spore-spreading shoots which then enables it to be controlled or even eradicated over time.

Herbicides can help to control infestations although the plant has a waxy cuticle which needs to be penetrated before the herbicide can be effective. This can be done by bruising the plant first or by applying adjuvants to increase the effectiveness of herbicides.

Management is key to successfully controlling an invasion of Horsetail and keeping dialogue open and demonstrating to local authorities the effectiveness and longevity of your management plan.

In the event that your site has an invasion of Horsetail, you’ll need the advice and experience of experts such as Eco Weed Control Limited or Complete Weed Control, who know how to deal with this persistent pain to developers.

Compariqo offers bespoke re-financing and insurance solutions to the property sector. Contact one of our advisors today.

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