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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, gardens, grassland, meadows, riverbanks, roadsides, wasteland, waterside, wetland, woodland.

Green, no petals
The flowers of Meadow Foxtail are delicate and unassuming, yet they hold a unique charm. Arranged in dense, cylindrical spikes atop slender stems, the flowers are subtle in color, often taking on a greenish-yellow hue that blends effortlessly with the surrounding grasses. Each individual flower consists of tiny, intricate florets packed closely together, creating a tufted appearance reminiscent of a foxtail, from which the grass derives its name. While not flamboyant or showy, these flowers possess a quiet elegance, swaying gently in the breeze as they attract wind-borne pollen for reproduction. In fields and meadows, the sight of Meadow Foxtail in bloom adds a soft, serene beauty to the landscape, inviting a closer look to appreciate its understated floral intricacies.
The fruit of Meadow Foxtail follows the flowering stage, presenting a distinctive feature in the life cycle of this grass. As the flowers fade, they give way to small, oval-shaped seeds nestled within the spikelets. These seeds are held tightly within the bracts of the flower spike, forming a dense cluster that resembles a foxtail, characteristic of the grass species. Each seed is tiny, measuring only a few millimeters in length, and has a smooth, shiny surface. As the seeds mature, the spikelets gradually turn golden-brown, creating a striking contrast against the green foliage. When the wind blows, the dried spikelets of Meadow Foxtail detach easily from the plant, allowing the lightweight seeds to disperse and find new areas to germinate. This method of seed dispersal ensures the grass's ability to colonize new habitats and continue its life cycle with resilience and efficiency.
The leaves of Meadow Foxtail are an essential part of its graceful appearance and ecological function. They are slender, linear, and often finely textured, growing in dense tufts or clumps along the base of the plant's stems. The leaves can vary in color from bright green to a more muted, silvery-green shade, adding depth and texture to the grassy landscape. Each leaf is smooth and hairless, tapering to a point at the tip, with parallel veins running lengthwise along its length. One notable feature of Meadow Foxtail leaves is their flexibility, bending gently with the wind as the plant sways in the breeze. This adaptability helps reduce water loss through transpiration and allows the grass to thrive in a range of environmental conditions. Whether in a wildflower meadow or a pastoral landscape, the slender, elegant leaves of Meadow Foxtail contribute to its overall aesthetic appeal and functional role in the ecosystem.
The aroma of Meadow Foxtail is a subtle yet distinctive aspect of this graceful grass species. When the grass is crushed or brushed against, it releases a delicate, sweet scent that is often described as fresh and earthy. This gentle fragrance carries hints of springtime meadows and sun-warmed fields, evoking a sense of tranquility and connection to nature. In wildflower meadows and pastoral landscapes where Meadow Foxtail grows abundantly, the soft aroma wafting through the air adds to the sensory experience of being surrounded by lush greenery and wildflowers. While not overpowering, the grass's scent invites a closer appreciation of its natural beauty, creating moments of quiet pleasure for those who pause to inhale its subtle perfume.
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.

30 Meadow Foxtail Facts

Here are 30 fascinating facts about Meadow Foxtail:

  1. Scientific Name: Meadow Foxtail is scientifically known as "Alopecurus pratensis."

  2. Native Habitat: It is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa but has been introduced to other parts of the world, including North America.

  3. Appearance: Meadow Foxtail is a perennial grass with dense, cylindrical flower spikes.

  4. Height: The grass can grow up to 1.2 meters (4 feet) tall.

  5. Adaptability: Meadow Foxtail is adaptable to a variety of soil types, including clay, loam, and sandy soils.

  6. Ecosystem Benefits: It plays a crucial role in stabilizing soil due to its fibrous root system, helping to prevent erosion.

  7. Forage Crop: Farmers often use Meadow Foxtail as a forage crop for livestock due to its palatability.

  8. Early Growth: Meadow Foxtail is one of the first grasses to grow in the spring, providing early-season grazing for animals.

  9. Wildlife Habitat: It provides habitat and food for various wildlife species, including insects, birds, and small mammals.

  10. Hay Production: Meadow Foxtail is commonly used in hay production due to its high yield and nutritional value.

  11. Climate Tolerance: This grass is tolerant of both wet and dry conditions, making it versatile in various climates.

  12. Invasive Potential: In some regions, Meadow Foxtail can become invasive, outcompeting native vegetation.

  13. Blooming Period: It typically blooms from late spring to early summer, producing delicate, greenish-yellow flowers.

  14. Wind Pollination: Meadow Foxtail relies on wind pollination to reproduce, with its lightweight pollen easily carried by the breeze.

  15. Seed Production: A single plant can produce thousands of seeds, aiding in its widespread distribution.

  16. Cultural Uses: In some cultures, Meadow Foxtail has traditional medicinal uses for treating ailments such as diarrhea and fever.

  17. Grazing Preference: Livestock such as cattle and sheep prefer to graze on Meadow Foxtail due to its tender leaves.

  18. Biomass Production: It has a high biomass production, making it valuable for soil improvement and carbon sequestration.

  19. Habitat Restoration: Meadow Foxtail is used in habitat restoration projects to establish native grasslands.

  20. Resilience: This grass can regrow from the base after being grazed or cut, showing resilience to grazing pressure.

  21. Wildflower Meadows: Meadow Foxtail is often found in wildflower meadows, adding texture and structure to the landscape.

  22. Drought Tolerance: It exhibits good drought tolerance once established, making it suitable for low-maintenance landscapes.

  23. Root Depth: The roots of Meadow Foxtail can reach depths of up to 60 centimeters (2 feet), aiding in soil aeration.

  24. Agricultural Rotation: Farmers use Meadow Foxtail in crop rotation systems to improve soil health and prevent nutrient depletion.

  25. Weed Suppression: Its dense growth can help suppress the growth of weeds, reducing competition for resources.

  26. Haying Equipment: Meadow Foxtail's tough stems can pose challenges for haying equipment due to their fibrous nature.

  27. Growth Habit: It has a clumping growth habit, forming tufts or bunches in fields and meadows.

  28. Endangered Species: In some areas, Meadow Foxtail populations are declining due to habitat loss and land development.

  29. Genetic Diversity: There are numerous cultivars of Meadow Foxtail, bred for specific traits such as yield, palatability, and disease resistance.

  30. Symbolism: In folklore, Meadow Foxtail is sometimes associated with themes of renewal, growth, and the cycle of life due to its seasonal growth patterns.

These facts offer a diverse view of Meadow Foxtail, from its ecological importance to its agricultural and cultural significance.


Meadow Foxtail filmed in the Chorley region of Lancashire in 2023 and 2024.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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