Hippuris Sp. - Mare's-Tail

Family: Plantaginaceae

Perennial herb from rhizome, emergent aquatic, glabrous; rooting at nodes; wind-pollinated. Stem: ± erect, unbranched. Leaf: in whorls of 6–12, sessile, linear to elliptic, entire. Inflorescence: flower 1 in upper axils, ± sessile. Flower: inconspicuous, generally bisexual (or staminate proximal to pistillate); calyx a minute rim at ovary top; petals 0; stamen 1, off center on top of ovary; ovary inferior, chamber 1, style 1, off-center, ± = stamen, slender, in groove between anther sacs, ± entirely stigmatic. Fruit: achene or thin-walled drupe.
2 species. (Greek: horse tail) [Olmstead & Reeves 1995 Ann Missouri Bot Gard 82:176–192] In Hippuridaceae in TJM (1993); now, along with Callitrichaceae and others, treated in Plantaginaceae. [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Hippuris montana - mountain mare's-tail [E-flora]
  2. Hippuris tetraphylla - four-leaved mare's-tail [E-flora]
  3. Hippuris vulgaris - common mare's-tail [E-flora][PCBC]

Key to the Species and Taxonomic Notes
1. Stems 1.5-8 (10) cm tall, less than 1 mm wide; leaves 2-6 (10) mm long.......................H. montana
1. stems 10-40 cm tall, 1.5-5 mm wide; leaves 6-30 (50) mm long.
2. Leaves elliptic to oblong or egg-shaped, and blunt-tipped, 6-15 mm long, 2-8 mm wide, 4-6 (8) per whorl.............................H. tetraphylla
2. Leaves linear and slender-tipped, 6-30 (50) mm long, 1-2 mm wide, (6) 8-12 per whorl...............................H. vulgaris [E-flora]

Hippuris montana - mountain mare's-tail

Family: Plantaginaceae (Mare's-tail family)(Previously in Hippuridaceae) [E-flora]


General: Perennial, semi-aquatic or terrestrial herb from a slender creeping rhizome; stems erect, simple, glabrous, 0.5 mm wide, 1.5-10 cm tall. [IFBC-E-flora]
Leaves: Stem leaves 5-8 per whorl, linear, unstalked, 2-6 (10) mm long, 0.5-1 mm wide, glabrous, pointed at the tips, stiff above water but limp underwater. [IFBC-E-flora]
Flowers: Inflorescence of tiny, single, inconspicuous, imperfect and occasionally perfect flowers in several whorls in the axils of the leaf whorls, stalked below, unstalked in the upper leaf axils, the flowers mostly unisexual, with male flowers below the female flowers; petals lacking; anthers 0.5 mm long; mature ovaries 1 mm long. [IFBC-E-flora]
Fruits: Nutlets, about 1 mm long; seeds 1. [IFBC-E-flora]

Habitat / Range
Shallow streams, ponds, wet to moist meadows, streambanks and seepage areas in the upper montane to alpine zones; infrequent in coastal BC, rare in S BC east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains; amphiberingian, N to AK, YT and NT, E to AB and S to NW WA; E. Asia. [IFBC-E-flora]
Origin Status: Native [E-flora]

Ecological Indicator Information
A shade-intolerant, subalpine, Asian and Western North American forb distributed more in the Pacific than the Cordilleran region. Occurs in alpine tundra and subalpine boreal climates on very moist to wet, nitrogen-medium soils. Its occurrence increases with increasing latitude, and decreases with increasing continentality. Common in high­elevation, heath-like or low­shrub communities on water­shedding and water-receiving sites. Associated with Cassiope mertensiana, Luetkeapectinata, and Phyllodoce empetriformis. Characteristic of subalpine communities. [IFBC-E-flora]

Hippuris tetraphylla - four-leaved mare's-tail

Family: Plantaginaceae (Mare's-tail family)(Previously in Hippuridaceae) [E-flora]

This is a blue-listed taxon in B.C. [E-flora]


Edible Uses

The whole plant (except the roots and submerged stems) is gathered from ponds right after freeze-up by skimming the ice surface with a shovel or rake. Plants can then be put on tarps to dry and store in bags for the winter. Other people gather them in the spring from the lakes just when the ice is lifting. Freezing makes them soft and easier to cook. The plant is not eaten when green in the summer because it is too bitter. Rabbits eat them when they are green, but to people, these summer plants taste bitter like cungak, fish bile. The cooked plant can be put in soup with seal blood and fish eggs (such as tomcod roe) or in akutaq. They can also be eaten with qayussaaq, a kind of aged fish that has been dried and boiled. One elder said the plants are a good source of fiber. [Jernigan EYK]


General Use of Hippuris Sp.

Species Mentioned; Hippuris vulgaris, H. Tetraphylla, H. Montana. [Schofield]

Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Ancient herbalists employed mare's tail for internal and external bleeding. It was a favorite remedy of Culpeper, who prescribed the juice and decocted herb as a drink for those with ulcers; these fluids were also used as a wash for skin irritations. [Schofield]


Page last modified on Friday, April 10, 2020 6:11 PM