In a family of primitive plants, these are perennials that reproduce primarily by creeping rhizomes. Cones produce thousands of spores, and reproduction by spores is far less common. Two kinds of plants – fertile and sterile. Fertile plants grow up as unbranched stalks with a cone at the end, yellowish and about 1 foot tall. Sterile plants are heavily branched, up to 3 feet tall, and extensively jointed on both the stem and the branches. Once spore release occurs in the spring the fertile plants die back, and the sterile plants begin extensive growth. Moist to wet areas are preferred, especially in sandy soils, and horsetails may occur in meadows, ditch banks, swampy areas or waste places. Vegetation generally dies back in the winter.
Resistant to most agricultural herbicides. Reproduction primarily by spreading, underground rhizomes that may go as deep as 5 feet.