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Timothy grass (Phleum pratense)

Timothy grass is a popular agricultural grass found across the UK. It is common in a lot of pet feed and many people are allergic to its pollen.

Common name(s): Timothy grass, Timothy, common cat’s tail

Scientific name: Phleum pratense

Family: Poaceae

Appearance

Characterised by the cylindrical flower head, Timothy grass grows in clumps that can be as big as 1 metre high.

Leaves: smooth and hairless that are pale green in colour. Young leaves are rolled and become flat and pointed over time.

Flowers: these are located on the end of a stalk and they are densely packed into a cylinder. This cylinder is formed of tiny horned spikelets.

Not to be confused with: meadow foxtail which flowers earlier in the year from April until June.

Where and when to find timothy grass

When: it is visible all year round and flowers from June until September

Where: found in pasture grasslands, meadows and on the side of roads.

Value to wildlife

The caterpillars of some butterfly species like the Essex skipper and the marbled white use timothy grass as a food plant. It is also part of important grassland habitats that are essential for invertebrate species.

Uses and folklore

It was named after Timothy Hanson who introduced it into agriculture in the southern states of America. It is now commonly grown for hay as feed for several different animals. Its main benefit is this species of grass grows quickly.

The pollen of timothy grass is a common allergen and has been used in the creation of a hay fever vaccine.

Threats

Reduction in meadow habitat is the biggest threat to this species however it remains to be a common species throughout the UK and Europe.

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