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Meadow Foxtail

Alopecurus pratensis

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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 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:
120 centimetres tall
Fields, grassland, meadows, roadsides.

Green, no petals
Long spikes up to 9cm which give the plant its name. Anthers orange to purple.
An ellipsoid caryopsis with vertical grooves.
Wide, linear and hairless leaves, approximately 5mm wide.
Other Names:
Field Meadow Foxtail, Hay Meadow Foxtail.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Alopecurus pratensis, commonly known as meadow foxtail or hay meadow foxtail, is a perennial grass that is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is a member of the Poaceae (grass) family, and is found in a wide variety of habitats, including meadows, pastures, and roadsides.

The plant has a tufted habit and produces narrow, cylindrical spikes (inflorescences) that are typically green but can turn to yellow as they mature. The spikes are compact, and are usually 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) long. The leaves are narrow and flat, and are typically 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) long.

Meadow foxtail is a common grass species found in meadows, pastures, and roadsides, and it is also grown as a forage crop for livestock. It is tolerant of a wide range of soils, and is well adapted to growing in wet or dry conditions. It is also commonly found in hayfields and pastures, and is palatable to grazing animals, as well as used as hay, silage and green manure crop.

Alopecurus pratensis is a valuable grass species in terms of wildlife habitat and biodiversity, providing food and nesting sites for a wide range of species including small mammals, insects, and birds.

Propagation of Alopecurus pratensis is done through seed. It is also possible to propagate it by division or by using sod cuttings. It is a hardy species, easy to grow and has no significant pest or disease problems. It can be found in a variety of soil types and climates and prefers full sun to partial shade.


Meadow Foxtail, scientifically known as Alopecurus pratensis, is a cool-season grass species that belongs to the Poaceae family. This grass species is native to Europe and has been introduced to various regions of the world, including North America, Asia, and Australia. Meadow foxtail is a popular forage grass that is grown for grazing and hay production, but it also has ornamental value as an attractive plant for landscaping.


Meadow foxtail is a perennial grass that grows up to 120cm in height. The leaves are flat and have a shiny surface, with a smooth texture. They are 3-10mm wide, tapering to a pointed tip, and up to 30cm long. The flowers are dense, cylindrical, and spike-like, with a reddish-purple color. They are up to 20cm long and 1cm wide. Meadow foxtail blooms from May to July.

Growing conditions

Meadow foxtail grows best in cool, moist conditions, making it an ideal choice for areas with mild summers and cold winters. It prefers well-drained soils that are rich in nutrients, with a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5. It is also tolerant of moderate levels of salt and can grow in areas with high rainfall or where the water table is close to the surface.


Meadow foxtail is a popular forage grass for livestock, especially in areas with cool, moist conditions. It is highly nutritious and palatable, making it a favorite of grazers like cattle and sheep. It is also commonly used for hay production, as it dries easily and retains its nutritional value even after being cut and stored. In addition to its agricultural uses, meadow foxtail is also an attractive plant for landscaping, with its dense spike-like flowers adding a colorful touch to gardens and meadows.


Meadow foxtail has many benefits, including its high nutritional value and palatability, making it an excellent choice for grazing animals. It is also drought-tolerant, making it a reliable option for areas with irregular rainfall patterns. Meadow foxtail's dense root system helps to stabilize soil, reducing erosion and improving soil health. Additionally, its ornamental value makes it a popular choice for landscaping, adding aesthetic value to gardens and meadows.


Meadow foxtail can be challenging to establish, as it requires cool, moist conditions to germinate and grow. It can also be susceptible to disease and pests, including rust, smut, and armyworms. Additionally, it can be prone to lodging, which is when the stems bend or break due to wind or heavy rainfall. This can reduce its palatability and forage quality.


Meadow foxtail, with its high nutritional value, palatability, and ornamental value, is an excellent grass species for grazing and hay production, as well as for landscaping purposes. While it can be challenging to establish and maintain, its benefits make it a popular choice for farmers and gardeners alike. With proper management and care, meadow foxtail can thrive and provide many benefits to the environment and the communities that rely on it.

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Meadow foxtail is often used in pasture mixes with other cool-season grasses such as perennial ryegrass and tall fescue, as well as legumes such as white clover and red clover. These mixes can provide a diverse and nutritious forage source for grazing animals, as well as help to improve soil health through nitrogen fixation by the legumes.

Meadow foxtail is also used in conservation and restoration projects, as its deep root system can help to improve soil structure and prevent erosion. It is commonly planted in wetland restoration projects, as it is tolerant of periodic flooding and can help to filter pollutants from water.

In addition to its practical uses, meadow foxtail has cultural significance in some regions. In Finland, for example, it is considered a sacred plant and is used in traditional Midsummer celebrations.

Meadow foxtail has also been studied for its potential as a bioenergy crop. Its high biomass yield and ability to grow in cool, moist conditions make it a promising candidate for use as a feedstock for biofuel production. Research is ongoing to determine the most efficient and sustainable ways to produce biofuels from meadow foxtail and other grass species.

Another benefit of meadow foxtail is its ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Like all plants, meadow foxtail absorbs carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, and this carbon is stored in the plant's tissues and in the soil. As a perennial species with a deep root system, meadow foxtail can sequester carbon for many years, making it an important tool for mitigating climate change.

However, it is important to note that the use of meadow foxtail for bioenergy or carbon sequestration should not come at the expense of other important ecosystem services, such as biodiversity and soil health. Careful management and planning are necessary to ensure that these services are maintained while utilizing meadow foxtail for these purposes.

Meadow foxtail is also known for its medicinal properties. In traditional Chinese medicine, it has been used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, headaches, and inflammation. Modern research has confirmed some of these traditional uses, and has also identified potential new uses for meadow foxtail.

For example, studies have shown that meadow foxtail contains compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which could make it a valuable addition to treatments for conditions such as arthritis, asthma, and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, research has shown that meadow foxtail has potential as an anti-cancer agent, with compounds that can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

While more research is needed to fully understand the medicinal properties of meadow foxtail, these findings suggest that it could be a valuable resource for the development of new treatments and therapies.

Finally, it's worth noting that meadow foxtail is also a beautiful and ornamental grass. Its long, cylindrical flower heads and fine-textured leaves make it an attractive addition to gardens and landscaping projects. Whether used for practical or aesthetic purposes, meadow foxtail is a versatile and valuable species with many benefits.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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