How To Get Rid of Snake Grass?

Equisetum ramosissimum

Imagine tending to your beautiful garden oasis, and suddenly, you spot pesky, winding tendrils stealthily creeping through your precious plants.

Yes, it’s snake grass, and no, it doesn’t bite.

Snake grass, also known as horsetail, is a stubborn weed that spreads using pores, wreaking havoc on your beloved plants.

Suppose you’re a seasoned horticulturist needing help or a newbie that requires assistance tackling these tenacious invaders. In that case, we’ll provide practical tips to help you eliminate snake grass and keep your valuable plants thriving and flourishing.

What Is Snake Grass?

Snake grass, or Equisetum ramosissimum, is a persistent and invasive weed commonly found in lawns, gardens, and moist habitats.

This plant, belonging to the genus Equisetaceae, produces spores rather than seeds and has existed for over 100 million years.

Here are some general facts about snake grass:

  • It is common in North America, New Zealand, and Australia.
  • It holds cultural significance in some Native American tribes for ceremonies, weaving mats, or baskets.
  • Some species have been traditionally used in herbal medicine to treat wounds and inflammation.

Despite some of its uses, snake grass can cause some damage to the plants in your garden and must be eliminated once detected.

Keep reading to learn about its disadvantages and how you can eliminate it from your garden.

How To Identify Snake Grass?

Equisetum ramosissimum
Source: Wikimedia

Snake grass can be easily recognized using some distinctive features.

Here are some key features to look out for.

Feature #1: Leaves

Unlike traditional grasses, snake grass doesn’t have typical leaves.

Instead, it has small, scale-like structures, known as sheaths, arranged in whorls around the stem nodes, in colors green or brown.

Feature #2: Appearance

Snake grass typically grows in dense clumps or patches, often creating thick colonies.

It has slim, hollow, rigid, and segmented stems, resembling bamboo, which can be brown or pale green with a rough texture.

These stem segments are distinct and make them look jointed.

They can reach heights of 1 to 3 feet (30-90 cm) at maturity but can grow higher in ideal conditions.

Feature #3: Cone-Like Reproductive Structures

In spring or summer, snake grass develops reproductive structures known as strobili.

They appear at the tips of the stem and release spores which aid in the plant’s reproduction.

Feature #4: Rhizomes

Snake grass has rhizomes, which are log creeping roots that allow it to spread underground.

These rhizomes also allow the weed to multiply rapidly, making eliminating it more challenging.

Why Is Snake Grass Bad?

Equisetum ramosissimum
Source: Wikimedia

Snake grass is considered a nuisance and unwanted weed in landscapes and gardens for several reasons.

Here are a few of them.

Reason #1: Aggressive Growth

Snake grass has a vigorous growth habit; its underground rhizomes allow it to spread rapidly.

It can quickly invade susceptible plants, overtaking and depriving them of essential nutrients, water, and sunlight.

Reason #2: Toxicity To Neighboring Plants

Its ability to spread through rhizomes makes snake grass highly invasive, and some species produce allelopathic chemicals, which can prevent the growth of neighboring plants, inhibiting the vitality of plants in your garden.

Reason #3: Toxic To Humans and Animals

Some species of snake grass contain alkaloids, which can be toxic to humans and animals if mistakenly ingested in large quantities.

Its high silica content also makes it abrasive and can irritate the digestive system if consumed in large quantities.

Reason #4: Aesthetically Displeasing

If you’re growing a garden to improve the aesthetic appearance of your home, then snake grass is your number one enemy.

It has a messy and unkempt appearance that negatively affects the visual appeal of your landscape.

Reason #5: Competition for Resources

As a plant, snake grass will compete with other plants in your garden for resources such as light, water, space, and nutrients.

This competition can hinder the growth of your valuable plants, weakening them, stunting their growth, reducing their yield, and eventually killing them.

Reason #6: Invasive Nature

The highly invasive nature of snake grass, due to its rhizomes, can make them challenging to eliminate completely.

Even small pieces of rhizomes left behind after removal can quickly regrow.

How To Eliminate Snake Grass?

If you want to eliminate snake grass, there are a couple of methods.

Method #1: Hand Pulling

Removing snake grass with your hands can be an effective way to rid your garden of them if the infestation is small.

You only need to ensure you remove the underground rhizome by pulling it out gently from the base of the soil.

Method #2: Using Mulch

You can use a thick layer of mulch to smother snake grass and deprive it of sunlight.

You can create mulch using cardboard or organic matter.

However, it might take a while before you see results, and you would need to monitor and reapply it regularly.

Method #3: Herbicides

Specific herbicides contain ingredients 2,4-D that are specially formulated for controlling grassy weeds.

Apply enough herbicide to coat the weed’s foliage but don’t let it drip.

Also, follow the instructions on the label and minimize contact with valuable plants.

Special Tips for Using Herbicides

Always wear protective gear when using herbicides, including gloves, long-sleeved clothing, and protective goggles. Also, herbicides are best applied on warm days with minimal wind.

Method #4: Digging or Mowing

If you have large snake grass infestations, you can dig them out using a large spade or shovel, ensuring you remove as much of the rhizome as possible.

Regular mowing can also reduce the plant’s ability to photosynthesize and weaken it.


This mischievous weed has proven to be quite the resilient troublemaker, as its invasive nature can turn a peaceful garden into a battleground.

But you have nothing to worry about.

Follow all the tips we’ve provided, and you can free your plants from the clutches of the snake plant.

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