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Meadow Oat-grass

Helictotrichon pratense

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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, Canary 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, 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:
1 metre tall
Cliffs, gardens, grassland, meadows, roadsides, sand dunes, sea cliffs, woodland.

Green, no petals
Very similar species to Downy Oat-grass (Helictotrichon pubescens). The main difference being that Downy Oat-grass has a particularly hairy lower stem and lower leaves. Meadow Oat-grass is hairless. Also similar to False Oat-grass (Arrhenatherum elatius). The flowers of this grass are loosely clustered. Meadow Oat-grass has between 3 and 6 awns per spikelet. Downy Oat-grass has got 2 or 3 awns per spikelet. False Oat-grass has got a single long awn per spikelet. The Latin name of this flower used to be 'Avenula pratense'.
A seed encased in a sheath (technically called a caryopsis).
An erect, densely tufted, perennial grass. Leaf blades up to 30cm long.
Other Names:
Blue Oat-grass, Meadow Oat.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Helictotrichon pratense, commonly known as Blue Oatgrass, is a species of grass native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. It is a perennial grass that typically grows to be around 40-100 cm tall. It has a tufted habit, and the leaves are flat and 2-8 mm wide. It blooms in summer and its inflorescence is a narrow panicle, 15-30 cm long and 4-5 mm wide, with spikelets that are blue-gray or purple in color. This plant is commonly found in meadows, pastures, and along roadsides. It is also used as ornamental plant and in landscaping. It has a slow growth rate, and it prefers well-drained soils and full sun to partial shade.


Meadow oat-grass, also known as Helictotrichon pratense, is a perennial grass species that belongs to the Poaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia, but it is widely distributed in many parts of the world, including North America, where it is often used in landscaping, gardens, and in agriculture.

Meadow oat-grass is a tufted plant that grows up to 1 meter tall. It has blue-green leaves that are flat and narrow, and its flowers are borne on spikes that can reach up to 50 cm long. The flowers are usually purple or blue, and they bloom from May to August. The seeds of meadow oat-grass are small and are enclosed in a capsule that opens when the seeds are mature.

One of the unique features of meadow oat-grass is its deep root system, which can reach up to 1.5 meters deep in the soil. This allows the plant to access nutrients and water from deeper soil layers, making it well-adapted to dry and nutrient-poor soils. It is also a hardy plant, tolerating cold and frosty conditions and is able to survive long periods of drought.

Meadow oat-grass is commonly used in agricultural settings for hay production, pasture, and erosion control. It is also used in landscaping and gardens as an ornamental grass, due to its attractive blue-green foliage and showy flower spikes. Meadow oat-grass is also a favorite among beekeepers, as its flowers provide nectar for bees and other pollinators.

As a native species in many parts of the world, meadow oat-grass is an important component of grassland ecosystems. It provides habitat for many different species of animals and insects, and helps to stabilize soil, prevent erosion, and improve soil fertility. It is also an important food source for many grazing animals, including deer, cattle, and sheep.

Meadow oat-grass is not only a beneficial plant for humans and animals, but it also has significant ecological value. It plays an important role in the carbon and nitrogen cycles, contributing to the maintenance of soil fertility and the storage of carbon in the soil. The deep root system of meadow oat-grass also helps to sequester carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil, making it an important plant for mitigating the effects of climate change.

In addition, meadow oat-grass is a common host plant for many insect species, including butterflies, moths, and grasshoppers. These insects play an important role in pollination and nutrient cycling, and they provide food for many bird and mammal species.

Meadow oat-grass is also used in traditional medicine for a variety of ailments, such as respiratory disorders, urinary tract infections, and digestive problems. Its extracts have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties, making it a potential source of natural remedies.

Despite its many benefits, meadow oat-grass can also become invasive in some regions, particularly in North America, where it can outcompete native species and disrupt local ecosystems. It is important to manage the plant properly and prevent its spread to sensitive areas.

Meadow oat-grass is an important plant for livestock farmers as it is highly nutritious and palatable to many grazing animals. It has a high protein content and is rich in vitamins and minerals, making it an ideal feed source for cattle, sheep, and horses. Additionally, the deep root system of meadow oat-grass allows it to grow in nutrient-poor soils, making it a valuable forage plant for areas where other crops may struggle to grow.

In landscaping, meadow oat-grass is often used in mass plantings or as a specimen plant. Its blue-green foliage and tall flower spikes add texture and interest to gardens, and its tolerance for a wide range of growing conditions makes it a popular choice for landscape designers.

Meadow oat-grass has also been used in ecological restoration projects to improve soil stability, prevent erosion, and restore degraded habitats. Its deep root system helps to hold soil in place, preventing erosion and protecting water quality. In some areas, meadow oat-grass has been used to reclaim land that has been damaged by mining or other industrial activities.

Overall, meadow oat-grass is a versatile and important plant that offers many benefits to humans, animals, and the environment. Its adaptability, hardiness, and ecological value make it an ideal plant for sustainable agriculture, landscaping, and ecological restoration efforts. By understanding the many benefits of meadow oat-grass, we can better appreciate and utilize this valuable plant species.

Some Fun Facts about the Meadow Oat-grass

Fun Facts about Meadow Oat-grass:

  • Meadow oat-grass is also known by its scientific name, Helictotrichon pratense.
  • The plant is commonly found in meadows, pastures, and grasslands.
  • Its deep root system can help to prevent soil erosion, making it a valuable plant for land conservation.
  • Meadow oat-grass can tolerate cold and frosty conditions and can survive long periods of drought.
  • The plant's flowers provide nectar for bees and other pollinators, making it a favorite among beekeepers.
  • Meadow oat-grass has been used in traditional medicine for a variety of ailments, including respiratory disorders and digestive problems.
  • In some regions, meadow oat-grass can become invasive and disrupt local ecosystems.

Meadow oat-grass, or Helictotrichon pratense, is a versatile and important plant that offers many benefits to humans, animals, and the environment. Its deep root system, hardiness, and ecological value make it an ideal species for sustainable agriculture, landscaping, and ecological restoration efforts. The plant is commonly used for hay production, pasture, erosion control, and as an ornamental grass in gardens. It is highly nutritious and palatable to many grazing animals, and its flowers provide nectar for bees and other pollinators. However, it can also become invasive in some regions, making it important to manage the plant properly and prevent its spread to sensitive areas. Overall, meadow oat-grass is a valuable and resilient plant that plays an important role in many ecosystems and offers many benefits to humans and animals alike.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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