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Meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis)

A grass species that’s native to the UK and is common throughout England and Wales. It grows in dense tufts and its signature flower head is the best way to identify this grass.

Common name(s): Meadow foxtail

Scientific name: Alopecurus pratensis

Family: Poaceae

Appearance

Meadow foxtail grass gets its name from its long cylindrical flower head that looks like a fox's tail.

Leaves: the leaves are approximately 5 millimetres wide and hairless.

Flowers: the flower head is a long cylinder at the top of a stalk. It has short silky hairs giving a bushy effect. Flowers appear from April to June.

Not to be confused with: Timothy grass (Phleum pratense) which is a coarser grass that flowers later in the year.

Where and when to find meadow foxtail

When: the grass is visible all year round and flowers from April – June.

Where: it is typically found across meadows and other grassy areas that are moderately fertile and moist. It can be found along roadsides and bordering hedgerows. It is unlikely to be found in wetland areas and from very dry and free draining areas.

Value to wildlife

The Essex Skipper butterfly’s caterpillar uses Meadow foxtail as a food source. As part of meadows it provides an important habitat for several different invertebrate species.

Uses and folklore

Uses: commonly used in agriculture as a hay crop.

Threats

The main threat to meadow foxtail grass is a lack of habitat. Some natural biodiverse meadows have been converted and are seeded with faster growing grass species. However meadow foxtail grass is still very common throughout England and Wales.

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