Quick facts

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

Scientific name: Phleum pratense

Family: Poaceae

Origin: native

Flowering season: June to August

Habitat: pasture, grasslands, meadows and roadsides

What does Timothy grass look like?

Timothy grass is a tall, very robust perennial grass characterised by its long, cylindrical flower heads. It grows in clumps and can reach over a metre high.

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

Flowers: located on the end of a stalk and densely packed into a cylinder formed of tiny, horned spikelets. The stamens are pink.

Seed heads: approaching 38cm long, with spiky florets that mature into tiny seeds. These measure around 1mm in length, are light brown to white with a smooth texture and are oval in shape.

Not to be confused with: meadow foxtail which flowers earlier in the year, from April until June, and can grow as tall as 1.5 metres; and purple-stem cat’s tail which grows on lighter soils, particularly chalk lowland.

Where to find Timothy grass

Timothy grass is native to most of Europe. In the UK you can spot it all year round in pasture grasslands, meadows and on the side of roads.

Ringlet Butterfly On Timothy Grass

Credit: Pete Holmes / WTML

Value to wildlife

Timothy grass is the food plant of the caterpillars of a number of butterfly species, such as the Essex skipper and the marbled white. It is also part of important grassland habitats that are essential for invertebrates.

Timothy grass flowerhead

Credit: John Bridges / WTML

Uses of Timothy grass

It is a popular agricultural grass and is now commonly grown for animal feed. Its main benefit is that it grows quickly and can be harvested several times in a year if planted in early spring.

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

Did you know?

Timothy grass was named after Timothy Hanson, a farmer and agriculturalist who is said to have introduced it to the southern states of the US in the early 18th century.

Threats and conservation

Timothy grass is common throughout the UK and the rest of Europe. However, a loss of meadow habitats is the biggest threat to this species.

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