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Canary Grass

Phalaris canariensis

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Poaceae (Grass)
Also in this family:
Alpine Catstail, Alpine Foxtail, Alpine Meadow-grass, Annual Beard-grass, Annual Meadow-grass, Arrow Bamboo, Barren Brome Grass, Bearded Couch Grass, Bearded Fescue, Bermuda Grass, Black Bent, Black Grass, Blue Fescue, Blue Moor-grass, Bog Hair-grass, Borrer's Saltmarsh Grass, Bread Wheat, Bristle Bent, Brown Bent, Brown Sedge, Bulbous Foxtail, Bulbous Meadow-grass, California Brome Grass, Carnation Sedge, Cocksfoot, Cockspur, Common Bent, Common Cord-grass, Common Millet, Common Reed, Common Saltmarsh Grass, Compact Brome Grass, Corn, Couch Grass, Creeping Bent, Creeping Soft-grass, Crested Dog's-tail, Crested Hair-grass, Cultivated Oat, Curved Hard Grass, Cut Grass, Dense Silky Bent, Downy Oat-grass, Drooping Brome Grass, Drooping Tor Grass, Dune Fescue, Early Hair-grass, Early Meadow-grass, Early Sand-grass, False Brome Grass, False Oat-grass, Fern Grass, Fine-leaved Sheep's Fescue, Flattened Meadow-grass, Floating Sweet-grass, Foxtail Barley, French Oat, Giant Fescue, Glaucous Meadow-grass, Great Brome Grass, Greater Quaking Grass, Grey Hair-grass, Hairy Brome Grass, Hairy Finger-grass, Hard Fescue, Hard Grass, Harestail Grass, Heath Grass, Holy Grass, Hybrid Marram Grass, Italian Rye Grass, Knotroot Bristlegrass, Lesser Hairy Brome Grass, Lesser Quaking Grass, Loose Silky Bent, Lyme Grass, Marram Grass, Marsh Foxtail, Mat Grass, Mat-grass Fescue, Meadow Barley, Meadow Fescue, Meadow Foxtail, Meadow Oat-grass, Mountain Melick, Narrow-leaved Meadow-grass, Narrow-leaved Small-reed, Neglected Couch Grass, Nit Grass, Orange Foxtail, Pampas Grass, Perennial Rye Grass, Plicate Sweet-grass, Purple Moor-grass, Purple Small-reed, Purple-stem Catstail, Quaking Grass, Ratstail Fescue, Red Fescue, Reed Canary Grass, Reed Sweet-grass, Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass, Rescue Grass, Rough Meadow-grass, Rush-leaved Fescue, Sand Catstail, Sand Couch Grass, Scandinavian Small-reed, Scottish Small-reed, Sea Barley, Sea Couch Grass, Sea Fern Grass, Sheep's Fescue, Silver Hair-grass, Six-rowed Barley, Slender Brome Grass, Small Cord-grass, Small Sweet-grass, Smaller Catstail, Smooth Brome Grass, Smooth Cord-grass, Smooth Finger-grass, Smooth Meadow-grass, Soft Brome Grass, Somerset Hair-grass, Sorghum, Spreading Meadow-grass, Squirreltail Fescue, Stiff Brome Grass, Stiff Saltmarsh Grass, Sweet Vernal Grass, Tall Fescue, Timothy Grass, Tor Grass, Tufted Hair-grass, Two-rowed Barley, Upright Brome Grass, Velvet Bent, Viviparous Fescue, Wall Barley, Wavy Hair-grass, Wavy Meadow-grass, Whorl Grass, Wild Oat, Wood Barley, Wood Fescue, Wood Meadow-grass, Wood Melick, Wood Millet, Yellow Oat-grass, Yorkshire Fog
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall

Green, no petals
Dense, oblong-to-egg-shaped seed heads, up to 7cm in length. The seed heads have distinctive spikelets with green and white stripes.
Small, pale-coloured seeds, commonly used as birdseed.
An annual plant with pale green and flat leaves. The leaf blades are rough-textured and hairless, tapering into a fine point.
Other Names:
Annual Canary Grass, Birdseed Grass, Canary Reed Grass.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Phalaris canariensis, also known as Canary grass or Canary Reed grass, is a species of grass that is native to the Canary Islands and the Azores, but it has been introduced to other parts of the world as an ornamental plant. It is a tall, clump-forming grass with narrow, green leaves and small, white or pink flowers that bloom in the summer. The grass can grow up to 6 feet (1.5 meters) tall and spreads by means of underground rhizomes. It is hardy and adaptable, and can grow in a wide range of soils and climates.


Canary grass, also known as Phalaris canariensis, is a type of grass that is commonly found in North Africa, Europe, and western Asia. This grass is a popular food source for livestock and is often grown as a crop for this purpose. However, canary grass also has some interesting properties that make it an intriguing plant to study.

One of the most interesting properties of canary grass is its ability to accumulate tryptamines, which are a type of chemical compound that can have psychoactive effects on the brain. In particular, canary grass has been found to contain a high concentration of a compound called DMT, or dimethyltryptamine. This compound is known to produce intense hallucinations when ingested or smoked.

The presence of DMT in canary grass has led to its use in certain spiritual and shamanic practices. For example, in some South American cultures, canary grass is used in ayahuasca preparations, which are traditional psychoactive plant medicines. Canary grass is also sometimes used in the creation of other psychoactive substances, such as changa or pharmahuasca.

While the psychoactive properties of canary grass are certainly interesting, it's important to note that this plant can also be toxic. In fact, consuming large amounts of canary grass can lead to serious health problems, including seizures, respiratory failure, and even death. Therefore, it's crucial to handle canary grass with care and to use it only under the guidance of a knowledgeable practitioner.

Aside from its psychoactive properties, canary grass is also a valuable food source for livestock. The grass is rich in protein and other nutrients, which makes it an ideal feed for cattle, sheep, and other grazing animals. In fact, canary grass is often grown as a crop in areas where other types of forage are scarce.

Canary grass is an annual grass that grows up to 1.5 meters in height. It has long, slender leaves that are up to 30 centimeters in length and 1.5 centimeters in width. The plant produces spikes of flowers that are green or purplish in color and are up to 20 centimeters long. The flowers develop into seed heads that are up to 15 centimeters long and contain numerous small seeds.

The cultivation of canary grass dates back to ancient times, with evidence of its use found in Egyptian tombs from around 2400 BCE. The plant was later introduced to Europe and became a popular food source for livestock, particularly in Spain and Portugal. Today, canary grass is grown in many parts of the world, including the United States, where it is used primarily for animal feed.

In addition to its use in ayahuasca and other psychoactive substances, canary grass has been studied for its potential medical properties. Some studies have suggested that certain compounds found in the plant may have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant effects. However, more research is needed to fully understand the potential health benefits of canary grass.

Canary grass is a hardy and adaptable plant that can grow in a wide range of soil types and environmental conditions. It is often used as a cover crop, particularly in areas where erosion is a problem. Canary grass has deep roots that can help to stabilize soil and prevent erosion, making it a valuable plant for environmental restoration projects.

In addition to its use as a cover crop, canary grass is also used in landscaping and gardening. The plant's tall, graceful stalks and seed heads can add visual interest to garden borders and meadow plantings. Some varieties of canary grass, such as the variegated form, are also prized for their ornamental value.

One potential downside of canary grass is that it can become invasive in some areas. The plant can spread quickly and outcompete native vegetation, particularly in wetland areas. Therefore, it's important to use canary grass responsibly and to avoid planting it in areas where it may become a problem.

In conclusion, canary grass is a fascinating and versatile plant that has played an important role in many different cultures and industries throughout history. Whether you're interested in its spiritual properties, its value as a livestock feed, or its potential for environmental restoration, there's no denying that canary grass is a valuable and intriguing plant. However, it's important to use canary grass responsibly and to be aware of any potential risks associated with its use.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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