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Heath Grass

Danthonia decumbens

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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, 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:
1 metre tall
Gardens, grassland, heathland, moorland.

Green, no petals
4 to 6 near-globular, awnless spikelets. Their colour is silvery-green or purplish.
The fruit is a caryopsis.
A tussock-forming, light green, perennial grass. The linear leaves lie flat on the ground with the tips turned up. Just like Purple Moor-grass (Molinia caerulea), the ligules consist of a ring of hairs, however in Heath Grass, the ends consist of a tuft of longer hairs.
Other Names:
Heath-grass, Mountain Heath-grass, Staggers Grass, Trailing Oat-grass.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Danthonia decumbens, also known as the trailing oat-grass, is a species of grass that is native to North America, including parts of Canada and the United States. It is a perennial grass that forms dense, tufted clumps and spreads via underground rhizomes. The leaf blades are typically 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) long, and the plant has a prostrate habit, with most of the leaves and stems lying close to the ground. The stems can root at the nodes, which enables the plant to spread across the ground. The flowers are small and are arranged in a spike-like inflorescence at the top of the stem. This species of grass is often used in landscaping and gardening as an ornamental, as well as forage for wild life.


Heath Grass, also known as Danthonia decumbens, is a species of grass that is native to Australia. It is commonly found in heathlands, open forests, and grasslands throughout the country, and is known for its hardiness and ability to thrive in a range of different soil types and environmental conditions.

One of the defining features of Heath Grass is its distinctive tufted growth habit. The grass grows in dense clumps, with each clump consisting of numerous narrow, spiky leaves that grow to around 20-30 cm in length. In the summer months, Heath Grass produces tall, slender stems that can reach up to 1 meter in height. These stems are topped with loose, branching flowerheads that contain small, yellowish-green flowers.

One of the reasons that Heath Grass is such a popular species for landscaping and restoration projects is its ability to tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions. The grass is highly adaptable, and can grow in a range of soil types, from sandy and well-drained soils to heavier, clay-based soils. It is also tolerant of both drought and frost, making it a popular choice for gardeners and landscapers in many different parts of the country.

Heath Grass is also an important species for maintaining the ecological health of many different habitats in Australia. It is often used in restoration projects to revegetate areas that have been disturbed by human activity, such as mining or road construction. The grass is also an important component of many different ecosystems, providing food and shelter for a range of different animal species, including insects, birds, and small mammals.

Despite its hardiness and adaptability, Heath Grass is also a species that is currently facing a number of threats. Habitat destruction, climate change, and the introduction of invasive species are all factors that are contributing to the decline of Heath Grass populations in many parts of Australia. However, there are a number of initiatives underway to help protect and conserve this important species, including habitat restoration projects, research into the species' biology and ecology, and educational programs aimed at raising awareness of the importance of Heath Grass and other native species for the health of Australia's ecosystems.

Heath Grass is an excellent choice for gardeners and landscapers looking to create a low-maintenance, naturalistic garden or landscape. It is often used in rock gardens, native gardens, and as a groundcover in areas where other plants struggle to grow. Its tough, resilient nature also makes it a popular choice for erosion control on slopes and embankments.

In addition to its practical uses, Heath Grass also has cultural and historical significance in many parts of Australia. The grass has long been used by Indigenous Australians for a range of purposes, including as a food source and for its medicinal properties. It is also an important species in traditional Indigenous ceremonies and cultural practices.

From a conservation perspective, Heath Grass is considered a species of "least concern" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, there are a number of factors that are contributing to the decline of Heath Grass populations in some areas, including habitat loss and degradation, competition with invasive species, and changes in fire regimes. As such, it is important that we continue to monitor and protect this species to ensure its long-term survival.

Heath Grass has a number of ecological benefits that make it an important species for the health of Australia's ecosystems. The grass provides food and habitat for a range of different animal species, including insects, birds, and small mammals. Its dense clumps and deep roots also help to prevent soil erosion and improve soil health by increasing soil organic matter and promoting nutrient cycling.

In addition to its ecological benefits, Heath Grass is also an important species for the agricultural industry in Australia. The grass is often used as a pasture species, providing valuable grazing for livestock in areas where other plants struggle to grow. It is also used in silvopastoral systems, where it is planted in conjunction with trees to create a more productive and sustainable agricultural system.

Despite its many benefits, Heath Grass is not without its challenges. In some areas, the grass has been displaced by invasive species, such as serrated tussock (Nassella trichotoma), which can outcompete Heath Grass and other native species for resources. In addition, changes in land use and management practices, such as the conversion of grasslands to agriculture or urbanization, can also impact Heath Grass populations.

To address these challenges and help protect Heath Grass and other native species, a range of conservation initiatives and programs have been established across Australia. These include habitat restoration projects, the development of best management practices for land use and management, and research into the biology and ecology of Heath Grass and other important native species.

Overall, Heath Grass is a valuable and important species that plays a vital role in maintaining the ecological health of many different habitats throughout Australia. While it faces a range of challenges, ongoing efforts to protect and conserve this species offer hope for its continued survival and success in the years to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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