Equisetum - Equisetaceae

Equisetum ramosissimum Desf. ssp. ramosissimum

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: BT. Wursten






Equisetum thunbergii Wikstr.
Equisetum burchellii Vaucher

Common name


Subterranean stem black, up to 6 mm in diameter, usually vertical and deeply buried, branching into horizontal stems, all rooting at the nodes and bearing aerial stems at intervals. Aerial stem hollow, up to 5 mm in diameter, longitudinally 10-20 ribbed, erect, c. 0.5-1 (2)m tall, with up to 16 thinner branches arranged in whorls at the nodes, up to 13 cm long, 1-1.5 mm in diameter. Leaves scale-like, up to 10 mm long, narrowly lanceolate with a single vein, often shiny-black with pale translucent margins, 1 per stemrib; 12-16 leaves unite for most of their length but with free black acuminate teeth up to 2 mm long and form a whorled sheath above each node. Strobili borne terminally on the main stem, oblong, 23 × 8 mm, with a blunt conical apex.



ramosissimum: much branched, referring to the numerous whorls of branches that this fern has at each node.


Moist areas, along perennial streams, in seasonally flooded areas and among grasses in full sun.

Distribution worldwide

Africa, Madagascan region, Macaronesia, southern and central Europe, Asia (except Malaysia), south and central America.

Distribution in Africa

Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Chad, Dem. Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Morocco and Western Sahara, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan and South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania , Tunesia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Growth form

Lithophytic, terrestrial.


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  • Crouch, N.R., Klopper, R.R., Burrows, J.E. & Burrows, S.M. (2011) Ferns of Southern Africa, A comprehensive guide. Struik Nature. Pages 134 - 135. (Includes a picture).
  • Hedberg, I; Friis, Ib & Persson, E (2009) Lycopodiaceae to Pinaceae.Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea, vol.1 Pages 20 - 21. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Pages 158 - 159. (Includes a picture).
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  • Roux, J.P. (2009) Synopsis of the Lycopodiophyta and Pteridophyta of Africa, Madagascar and neighbouring islands. Strelitzia 23, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. Pages 29 - 30.
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  • Vercourt, B. (1999) Equisetaceae.Flora of Tropical East Africa, Pages 1 - 3. (Includes a picture).