Horsetail spike-rush (Eleocharis equisetoides) recovery strategy

Official title: Recovery Strategy for the Horsetail Spike-rush (Eleocharis equisetoides) in Canada [Final Version]

Horsetail Spike-rush

October 2006


About the Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series

What is the Species at Risk Act (SARA)?

SARA is the Act developed by the federal government as a key contribution to the common national effort to protect and conserve species at risk in Canada. SARA came into force in 2003, and one of its purposes is “to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity.” 

What is recovery?

In the context of species at risk conservation, recovery is the process by which the decline of an endangered, threatened, or extirpated species is arrested or reversed and threats are removed or reduced to improve the likelihood of the species’ persistence in the wild. A species will be considered recovered when its long-term persistence in the wild has been secured.

What is a recovery strategy?

A recovery strategy is a planning document that identifies what needs to be done to arrest or reverse the decline of a species. It sets goals and objectives and identifies the main areas of activities to be undertaken. Detailed planning is done at the action plan stage. 

Recovery strategy development is a commitment of all provinces and territories and of three federal agencies -- Environment Canada, Parks Canada Agency, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada -- under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. Sections 37–46 of SARA ( outline both the required content and the process for developing recovery strategies published in this series. 

Depending on the status of the species and when it was assessed, a recovery strategy has to be developed within one to two years after the species is added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Three to four years is allowed for those species that were automatically listed when SARA came into force. 

What’s next?

In most cases, one or more action plans will be developed to define and guide implementation of the recovery strategy. Nevertheless, directions set in the recovery strategy are sufficient to begin involving communities, land users, and conservationists in recovery implementation. Cost-effective measures to prevent the reduction or loss of the species should not be postponed for lack of full scientific certainty. 

The series

This series presents the recovery strategies prepared or adopted by the federal government under SARA. New documents will be added regularly as species get listed and as strategies are updated. 

To learn more

To learn more about the Species at Risk Act and recovery initiatives, please consult the SARA Public Registry ( the Web site of the Recovery Secretariat (

Recommended citation:

Environment Canada. 2006. Recovery Strategy for the Horsetail Spike-rush (Eleocharis equisetoides) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Environment Canada, Ottawa. v + 17 pp.

Additional copies:

Additional copies can be downloaded from the SARA Public Registry ( ).

Cover illustration: E.J. Judziewicz

Également disponible en français sous le titre

« Programme de rétablissement de l’éléocharide fausse-prêle (Eleocharis equisetoides) au Canada »

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of the Environment, 2006. All rights reserved.

ISBN 0-662-44248-2

Cat. no. En3-4/6-2006E-PDF

Content (excluding the illustrations) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.


This recovery strategy has been prepared in cooperation with the jurisdictions responsible for the horsetail spike-rush. Environment Canada has reviewed and accepts this document as its recovery strategy for the horsetail spike-rush, as required under the Species at Risk Act. This recovery strategy also constitutes advice to other jurisdictions and organizations that may be involved in recovering the species.

The goals, objectives and recovery approaches identified in the strategy are based on the best existing knowledge and are subject to modifications resulting from new findings and revised objectives.

This recovery strategy will be the basis for one or more action plans that will provide details on specific recovery measures to be taken to support conservation and recovery of the species. The Minister of the Environment will report on progress within five years.

Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Environment Canada or any other jurisdiction alone. In the spirit of the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Minister of the Environment invites all responsible jurisdictions and Canadians to join Environment Canada in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the horsetail spike-rush and Canadian society as a whole.

Responsible Jurisdictions

Environment Canada – Ontario Region


This recovery strategy was prepared by Holly Bickerton, Biological Consultant.


Many thanks go to the following people, who have provided information and commented on drafts: Heather Arnold, Paul Ashley, Bill Crins, Mike Oldham, Jeff Robinson, Don Sutherland, Christine Vance. Thanks also to Canadian Wildlife Service, Habitat Conservation Section for their advice and Canadian Wildlife Service, Recovery Section for their advice and efforts in preparing this document for posting.

Strategic Environmental Assessment

A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all SARA recovery planning documents, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision-making.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts on non-target species or habitats. The results of the SEA are incorporated directly into the strategy itself, but are also summarized below.

This recovery strategy will clearly benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of the horsetail spike-rush. The potential for the strategy to inadvertently lead to adverse effects on other species was considered. The SEA concluded that this strategy will clearly benefit the environment and will not entail any significant adverse effects. The reader should refer to the following sections of the document in particular: 1.3 Needs of Horsetail Spike-rush; 2.9 Effects on Other Species; and 2.10 Recommended Approach for Recovery Implementation.


SARA defines residence as: a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or hibernating [Subsection 2(1)].

Residence descriptions, or the rationale for why the residence concept does not apply to a given species, are posted on the SARA public registry:


The horsetail spike-rush (Eleocharis equisetoides) is under the management jurisdiction of Environment Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario Region). The Species at Risk Act (SARA, Section 37) requires the competent minister to prepare recovery strategies for listed extirpated, endangered, or threatened species.The horsetail spike-rush was assessed as Endangered by COSEWIC in November 2000 and listed under SARA in 2003. The Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario Region, Environment Canada, led the development of this recovery strategy. The strategy meets SARA requirements in terms of content and process (Sections 39–41). The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources reviewed this document. Although the species is currently under the sole jurisdiction of Environment Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources will be engaged in the recovery process and all recovery decisions if the species is discovered off federal lands.

Executive Summary

Horsetail spike-rush (Eleocharis equisetoides) is an aquatic plant in the sedge family that is found primarily within the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains and is known from a single location in Canada. Little is understood about the specific biological requirements of this species, which grows in organic substrate in a pond between forested dunes at Long Point National Wildlife Area in southwestern Ontario.

The sole occurrence of horsetail spike-rush in Canada lies within a federally protected area, and there are no demonstrated anthropogenic threats to the species or its habitat. Possible threats include invasion by the common reed (Phragmites australis), a susceptibility to stochastic impacts, browsing by white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), changes in water levels, and genetic loss.

Critical habitat for this species is identified as the area occupied by the stand of culms and the shoreline buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) – red osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) thicket swamp community in which it occurs. The extent of the shoreline community should be mapped.

The recovery of horsetail spike-rush is considered technically and biologically feasible. The recovery goal is to maintain the single known occurrence of horsetail spike-rush at or near its recorded areal extent of 5–10 m2. Recovery objectives include:

  • monitoring the population and suspected threats, to assess trends and severity of threats;
  • investigating common reed management methods and implementing appropriate responses;
  • investigating seed viability, archiving techniques, and rhizome propagation, and, if considered feasible, collecting and preserving seeds or propagating rhizomes;
  • completing critical habitat mapping and ensuring critical habitat protection;
  • investigating and verifying any reported new locations of horsetail spike-rush; and
  • determining the tolerance of horsetail spike-rush to water-level fluctuation, the minimum viable population and the viability of the extant site, and, the extent to which lost of genetic diversity poses a threat to the species.

A number of specific actions and evaluation methods are also outlined within the strategy.

This approach to the recovery of horsetail spike-rush will not have any anticipated negative effects on other species at risk. Management of common reed may have an impact on other species, but this may be minimized through the selection of a non-chemical control method.

An action plan will be developed for horsetail spike-rush by 2008.

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