Open the Advanced Search

Hairy Finger-grass

Digitaria sanguinalis

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.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


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, 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:
90 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, lawns, wasteland.

Grey, no petals
3 to 13 spikes which emerge from the erect stem. The spikes are about 20cm long. The flat spikelets appear together in pairs. Wind-pollinated.
The fruit is a caryopsis.
Soft, smooth leaves which are hairy near their bases. Up to 8mm wide. A hairy sheath is present.
Other Names:
Common Crabgrass, Crab Finger Grass, Crab Grass, Hairy Crabgrass, Large Crabgrass, Purple Crabgrass, Summer Grass.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Digitaria sanguinalis, commonly known as large crabgrass or hairy crabgrass, is a species of grass in the family Poaceae. It is native to Europe and Asia, but has been introduced to North America and other parts of the world as a weed. The plant is considered a summer annual and can grow up to 3 feet tall.

The leaves of the plant are narrow and have a hairy texture, with the lower leaves being slightly larger than the upper leaves. The stems are also hairy and may have a reddish or purplish color. The plant produces small, inconspicuous flowers that form in clusters at the tips of the stems.

Large crabgrass is often considered a weed because it can quickly colonize lawns and gardens, outcompeting desirable plants for nutrients and light. It is known for its aggressive germination and growth habits and can be difficult to control once established. Cultural control methods, such as proper mowing, fertilization, and irrigation, can help to keep crabgrass populations in check. Chemical control can also be done by using pre-emergent or post-emergent herbicides.

However, Digitaria sanguinalis is also known as a good forage plant and can be used to feed livestock and also known to have medicinal properties and used traditionally in some cultures.


Hairy finger-grass, also known as Digitaria sanguinalis, is a common weed found in many parts of the world. This annual plant belongs to the family Poaceae, which includes a wide range of grasses. Hairy finger-grass is known for its distinctive appearance, as well as its ability to spread quickly and easily.

Appearance and Characteristics

Hairy finger-grass is a low-growing plant, typically reaching heights of around 30 to 70 centimeters. It has a distinctive appearance, with long, slender leaves that are dark green in color and grow in a rosette pattern close to the ground. The leaves are around 5 to 20 centimeters long and 2 to 8 millimeters wide, with a pointed tip.

The stems of hairy finger-grass are slender and often reddish-brown in color. The flowers are produced in a branching inflorescence that grows from the top of the stem, with each spikelet containing several small, densely packed flowers. The flowers are greenish or purplish in color and typically bloom from June to September.

Habitat and Distribution

Hairy finger-grass is a widespread weed that can be found in many parts of the world, including North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. It thrives in a wide range of habitats, including agricultural land, gardens, lawns, roadsides, and disturbed areas such as construction sites.

The plant is particularly well-adapted to growing in nutrient-poor soil and can quickly colonize bare or disturbed ground. It is often found in areas that have been recently disturbed or cultivated, and can quickly outcompete other plants to become the dominant species.

Uses and Benefits

Despite being a weed, hairy finger-grass does have some potential benefits. The plant is high in protein, and has been used as a food source in some parts of the world. The seeds can be ground into a flour and used to make porridge or bread, while the young leaves can be eaten as a vegetable.

Hairy finger-grass is also being studied for its potential as a biofuel crop. The plant produces large amounts of biomass, and can be grown on marginal or degraded land, making it a potentially valuable source of renewable energy.

However, while hairy finger-grass does have some potential benefits, it is generally considered to be a nuisance and a threat to agricultural productivity. The plant can compete with crops for water, nutrients, and sunlight, and can reduce yields if left unchecked.

Control and Management

Controlling hairy finger-grass can be difficult, as the plant has a number of mechanisms that allow it to spread quickly and persist in the environment. However, there are several strategies that can be used to manage infestations and reduce the impact of the weed on crop production.

Preventative measures are key to controlling hairy finger-grass. Maintaining healthy, well-fertilized soil, and avoiding overgrazing or other practices that can damage the land can help to prevent the weed from taking hold.

Mechanical control methods, such as mowing or hand weeding, can also be effective at controlling small infestations of hairy finger-grass. However, these methods may not be practical for larger infestations or in areas where the plant is particularly widespread.

Chemical control methods, such as herbicides, are often used to manage infestations of hairy finger-grass. However, these methods can have negative environmental impacts, and must be used carefully to avoid harming non-target species.

Hairy finger-grass is a widespread and adaptable weed that can cause problems for agricultural productivity and other land uses. While the plant does have some potential benefits, such as its high protein content and potential as a biofuel crop, it is important to manage infestations and prevent the spread of the plant. By maintaining healthy soils and using a combination of mechanical and chemical control methods, it is possible to reduce the impact of hairy finger-grass on crops and other land uses.

It is worth noting that the spread of hairy finger-grass is often facilitated by human activities, such as the movement of contaminated soil or equipment. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the risks of spreading the weed and take appropriate precautions to prevent its spread.

In addition to its impact on agricultural productivity, hairy finger-grass can also have negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem function. The plant can outcompete native species, reducing the diversity of plant communities and altering the composition of local ecosystems.

While hairy finger-grass may have some potential benefits, it is generally considered to be a nuisance and a threat to agricultural productivity and biodiversity. By taking steps to prevent its spread and using effective control methods, it is possible to minimize the impact of this weed and maintain healthy, productive ecosystems.

Another important aspect to consider is that hairy finger-grass can also have impacts on human health. The plant can produce pollen that can cause allergies in some people, and the seeds can be a source of irritation for both humans and livestock. The seeds have small barbs that can attach to clothing, skin, and animal fur, causing discomfort and potentially spreading the weed to new areas.

In addition, hairy finger-grass has been known to host a number of plant pathogens and pests, which can affect both the weed itself and nearby crops. This means that infestations of hairy finger-grass can pose a risk not only to agricultural productivity, but also to the health and vitality of nearby ecosystems.

Overall, while hairy finger-grass may have some potential benefits, the negative impacts of this weed far outweigh any potential advantages. By taking steps to prevent its spread and manage infestations, it is possible to reduce the impact of hairy finger-grass on agriculture, biodiversity, and human health.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map