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Cocksfoot grass (Dactylis glomerata)

Cocksfoot grass is a perennial grass species that is common throughout the UK's meadows.

Common name(s): cocksfoot grass, orchard grass or cat grass

Scientific name: Dactylis glomerata

Family: Poaceae


This grass species grows in dense tussocks which can be from 20-140 centimetres tall. It’s key characteristic is a flattened stem base which separates this grass from others.

Leaves: grey green in colour, they are approximately 20-50cm long and 1.5cm wide.

Flowers: have a distinctive tufted triangular flowerhead made up from several clumps of spikelets which hold the flowers. The colour of the flowers can change dependant on the time of year, but they are mostly green but has red or purple ends. The flowers turn a pale brown when ready to seed

Where and when to find cocksfoot grass

When: it can be found all year round but is best seen from June to September when flowering.

Where: it’s common in meadows and along roadsides. It’s very common throughout the UK.

Value to wildlife

Cocksfoot grass is a very important food source to several different butterfly species when in their caterpillar stage. It’s also a great habitat for lots of invertebrate species.

Uses and folklore

Cocksfoot grass is grown commercially in agriculture for hay. It is also a common grazing plant for livestock. It was very popular in the 18th century particularly in drought prone areas. However, ryegrass is now more popular in agricultural systems as it grows faster.


There are limited threats to cocksfoot grass as it remains to be important in agriculture. However meadow habitats are reducing which could cause an issue for cocksfoot grass in the future.

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