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Horsetails - a serious weed threat
11 August 2003

An entire plant group has recently been declared as a high priority noxious weed to be eradicated and excluded from the State of Victoria.

The Equisetum genus, or Horsetail as it is more commonly known, is considered to be one of the world's worst weeds.

The plants are incredibly resilient and tend to dominate poorly drained farmland and pastures. They are non-flowering, with a complex, spreading root system that sends up erect, hollow, segmented stems from a few centimetres to several metres in height.

Horsetails are not currently established in Victoria, however they are present in some gardens and on sale in nurseries and markets. The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) in conjunction with the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) has recently undertaken to inform south west Victorian nurseries of the ban on all Horsetails.

Thought to be toxic to livestock, horsetails have the potential to become a persistent weed of cultivated land, pastures, wetlands and other low-lying areas in Southern Australia.

Pest Plant and Animal Program Leader Tony Lovick said that DPI aims to ensure these plants are no longer sold to the public. "This will prevent them from becoming established agricultural and environmental weeds," he said. "We want to prevent significant problems in the future."

Mr Lovick advised that at least two species of Equisetum have commonly been found on sale at retail nurseries over the past couple of months. "We understand that the Dwarf Horsetail (Equisetum scirpoides) and Common Horsetail (Equisetum hyemale) are available, so we are appealing to all nurseries to check their plant stocks," said Mr Lovick. "A number of infestations have also been found."

Equisetum species have been listed under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 as a State Prohibited Weed in Victoria due to the unacceptable weedy nature of the horsetails and the difficulty distinguishing between species.

For assistance with treatment and removal of any infestations, including potted or garden plants, please inform a Catchment Management Officer at your nearest DPI or DSE office.

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