Giant Equisetum in Ecuador

Chad Husby husby at
Sat Apr 8 01:30:48 EST 2000

	I am very interested in the Neotropical giant Equisetum species
and I hope to pursue doctoral studies on the biology of these remarkable
plants.   The two known giant Equisetum species are E. giganteum and E.
myriochaetum.  Both are native to the Neotropics and
according to Richard Hauke's monograph (1963) are known to
reach heights of 5+ meters and stem diameters of 2.5 cm
(about 1").  These giants have regular whorls of branches at the stem
nodes, giving them a primeval appearance.

	An acquaintance who visited Ecuador in the early 1990's has
reported to me that he saw giant horsetails with stem diameters much
larger than 2.5 cm (say 4 cm or more).  The plants were seen near the road
about an hour's drive outside Quito heading towards Santo Domingo.  If
exceptionally large horsetails exist in Ecuador, this would be a truly
remarkable discovery (perhaps a new species).

	Another exciting report of remarkably large horsetails in Ecuador
came from Richard Spruce, a highly knowledgeable 19th century botanist.
Spruce explored Ecuador's flora in the late 1850's.  The following passage
is from Spruce's published journal "Notes of a Botanist" (1908):

"But the most remarkable plant in the forest of Canelos is a gigantic
Equisetum, 20 feet high, and the stem nearly as thick as the
wrist!...It extends for a distance of a mile on a plain bordering the
Pastasa, but elevated some 200 feet above it, where at every few
steps one sinks over the knees in black, white, and red mud.  A wood
of young larches may give you an idea of its appearance.  I have
never seen anything which so much astonished me.  I could almost
fancy myself in some primeval forest of Calamites, and if some
gigantic Saurian had suddenly appeared, crushing its way among the
succulent stems, my surprise could hardly have been increased."

	The above reports regarding unusually large horsetails in Ecuador
are quite compelling.  I would be very grateful for any information that
anyone can share with me regarding giant horsetails in Ecuador (or
elsewhere).  Has anyone else seen horsetails with stem diameters greater
than about 2.5 cm?

Thank you for your help.


Chad Husby
Graduate Student, Dept. of Statistics
The Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio


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