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Greater Quaking Grass

Briza maxima

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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, 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, 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:
60 centimetres tall
Gardens, grassland, heathland, meadows, roadsides, seaside, wasteland, waterside, woodland.

Green, no petals
The flowers of Greater Quaking Grass (Briza maxima) are small and delicate, typically pale green or brown in colour. These inconspicuous flowers are arranged in loose, nodding clusters, with each individual flower possessing a unique, heart-shaped appearance. The most distinctive feature of the plant is its seed heads, which are often more conspicuous than the flowers themselves. These seed heads resemble miniature hearts and are suspended on slender stems, giving the grass its characteristic "quaking" or nodding quality as they sway in the breeze.
The fruit of Greater Quaking Grass (Briza maxima) consists of small, dry, one-seeded grains, often referred to as "caryopses." These grains are usually a pale brown colour and are enclosed within the heart-shaped seed heads that give the plant its distinctive appearance. As the plant matures, the seed heads dry out and eventually release the grains, which are dispersed by the wind. The seeds are lightweight and well-suited for wind-mediated dispersal, aiding the plant in its reproduction and colonization of new areas.
The leaves of Greater Quaking Grass (Briza maxima) are slender and grass-like, with a vibrant green hue. They grow in tufts or clumps along the stems and are typically long and narrow, giving the plant an overall feathery appearance. These leaves are finely textured and can reach lengths of around 10 to 15 centimetres. They provide a lush backdrop to the distinctive seed heads, which are the most visually striking feature of the plant, adding to its ornamental appeal in gardens and natural settings.
Greater Quaking Grass (Briza maxima) is primarily appreciated for its visual and tactile qualities, as it does not possess a distinctive fragrance. The plant is known for its ornamental charm, with gracefully nodding seed heads and delicate, grassy foliage that sways in the wind, but it is not typically sought after for its scent. Instead, it adds to the aesthetics of gardens and natural landscapes with its visual and tactile appeal, making it a favourite among those who appreciate its gentle, rustling movement and distinctive appearance.
Other Names:
Big Quaking Grass, Blowfly Grass, Giant Quaking Grass, Great Quaking Grass, Great Shivery Grass, Greater Quaking Grass, Large Quaking Grass, Nodding-Isabel, Pearl Grass, Puffed Wheat, Rattle Grass, Rattlesnake Grass, Shaking Grass, Shell Grass, Shelly Grass.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Briza maxima, also known as big quaking grass or giant quaking grass, is a species of grass native to Europe and Asia. It is a perennial grass that can grow up to 1.5 meters tall. It has narrow, pointed leaf blades and a seedhead that is about 30-60 cm long and composed of several long, narrow spikes. The seedheads are particularly distinctive, being very large and pendulous, they are also quite stiff and have a nodding habit that makes them shake in the slightest breeze, hence the name quaking grass.

It prefers well-drained soils, and is commonly found in meadows, roadsides, and other disturbed areas. Briza maxima has ornamental value and it is often used as a ornamental grass in gardens, park or in naturalistic landscapes. It's attractive seedheads and nodding habit can be used to add an informal and graceful touch to the garden. It is generally considered to be low maintenance, hardy and easy to grow, it can be propagated from seed or division and it is tolerant of most soil types.


Greater Quaking Grass, scientifically known as Briza maxima, is a perennial ornamental grass that belongs to the family Poaceae. It is native to the Mediterranean region and parts of Europe and Asia. The plant is commonly cultivated for its attractive ornamental value and is a popular choice in garden designs.

Greater Quaking Grass is a low-maintenance plant that can grow up to 60 cm in height. The grass produces a clump of long, thin stems that bear drooping, spike-like flower clusters. The flowers are pale green in color and have a distinctive triangular shape that gives the plant its common name of Quaking Grass.

The flower clusters appear in early summer and can last through to the autumn. As the wind blows, the delicate flowers sway back and forth, creating a beautiful and mesmerizing quivering effect. This movement has earned the plant another common name of "Shaking Grass." The flowers turn a golden color in the autumn and remain on the plant throughout the winter, adding interest and texture to the garden landscape.

Greater Quaking Grass is a versatile plant that can grow in a range of soil types, from sandy to clay soils, as long as they are well-draining. The plant prefers full sun to partial shade and can tolerate moderate drought conditions. It is a hardy plant that can withstand temperatures as low as -15°C.

In addition to its ornamental value, Greater Quaking Grass has some traditional medicinal uses. In Europe, it has been used as a diuretic and astringent and is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Greater Quaking Grass is an excellent plant choice for gardeners looking to add a unique and interesting element to their landscape design. The plant is low-maintenance, hardy, and can grow in a range of soil types and conditions. Its quivering flowers make it a captivating sight, and its traditional medicinal uses add an extra layer of interest to this beautiful ornamental grass.

Greater Quaking Grass can also be used as a cut flower, making it an excellent choice for floral arrangements. The grass's delicate appearance and gentle movements make it a popular addition to dried flower arrangements as well.

The plant is also an excellent choice for wildlife gardens, as it provides food and habitat for a range of insects and birds. The seeds of Greater Quaking Grass are a source of food for birds such as finches and sparrows, while the plant's foliage provides shelter and nesting material for insects such as ladybugs and lacewings.

In terms of propagation, Greater Quaking Grass can be propagated through division or from seed. Division is best done in the spring, while seed sowing can be done in the spring or fall. The plant can self-seed, but it is not invasive and does not tend to spread aggressively.

When it comes to garden design, Greater Quaking Grass is a versatile plant that can be used in a range of settings. It is a popular choice for borders, rock gardens, and naturalistic plantings. The plant can also be used as a filler in mixed perennial beds or planted en masse to create a dramatic effect.

Greater Quaking Grass is a unique and beautiful ornamental grass that is well-suited to a range of garden styles and settings. Its delicate appearance, gentle movements, and traditional medicinal uses make it an excellent addition to any garden, while its wildlife value and ease of maintenance make it a practical choice for gardeners looking for a low-maintenance, high-impact plant.

In addition to its ornamental and ecological value, Greater Quaking Grass has also been used for centuries in traditional folk medicine. The plant is said to have diuretic, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties, and has been used to treat conditions such as urinary tract infections, rheumatism, and diarrhea. The plant's seeds were also traditionally used to aid in digestion and to promote lactation in nursing mothers.

Modern research has confirmed some of the traditional medicinal uses of Greater Quaking Grass. For example, a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that an extract of the plant had significant anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects in mice, supporting the traditional use of the plant to treat rheumatic conditions. Another study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that an extract of Greater Quaking Grass had a diuretic effect in rats, supporting the traditional use of the plant as a diuretic.

However, it's important to note that the traditional medicinal uses of Greater Quaking Grass have not been extensively studied in humans, and more research is needed to determine the safety and efficacy of the plant for these uses.

In terms of cultivation, Greater Quaking Grass is a relatively low-maintenance plant. It is drought-tolerant and can grow in a range of soil types, although it prefers well-drained soil. The plant does not require much fertilizer, but a light application of a balanced fertilizer in the spring can help promote growth and flowering. Deadheading the flowers after they fade can also help encourage the plant to produce more blooms.

Overall, Greater Quaking Grass is a fascinating and versatile plant that offers a range of benefits to gardeners, wildlife, and traditional medicine practitioners alike. Its unique appearance and gentle movements make it a beautiful addition to any garden, while its ecological and medicinal value make it a practical and valuable plant to cultivate.

30 Facts About Greater Quaking Grass

Here are 30 facts about Greater Quaking Grass (Briza maxima):

  1. Scientific Name: Greater Quaking Grass is scientifically known as Briza maxima.

  2. Appearance: It is a cool-season annual grass that typically reaches a height of 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 cm).

  3. Inflorescence: The grass produces distinctive inflorescences that resemble heart-shaped or nodding seed heads.

  4. Common Names: Greater Quaking Grass is also known by various common names, including "Big Quaking Grass," "Rattlesnake Grass," and "Large Quaking Grass."

  5. Native Range: It is native to the Mediterranean region but has become naturalized in many parts of the world.

  6. Ornamental Plant: Greater Quaking Grass is often cultivated as an ornamental grass due to its unique appearance.

  7. Cultivars: There are several cultivars of Briza maxima with variations in seed head color and size.

  8. Lifecycle: It is an annual plant, which means it completes its life cycle within one year.

  9. Culinary Use: While not commonly used for food, Greater Quaking Grass seeds are edible and have been used in some traditional dishes.

  10. Habitat: It is commonly found in grassy fields, meadows, and along roadsides.

  11. Growth Season: Greater Quaking Grass typically grows during the spring and early summer.

  12. Drought-Tolerant: It is moderately drought-tolerant and can thrive in dry conditions.

  13. Sun Requirements: This grass prefers full sun to light shade.

  14. Propagation: It can be propagated from seeds, which are easily collected from mature seed heads.

  15. Seed Dispersal: The seeds of Greater Quaking Grass are dispersed by wind, which contributes to its quaking or rattling appearance.

  16. Wildlife Attraction: The grass can attract birds and insects, which feed on its seeds.

  17. Landscape Use: It is often used in landscaping as a border or ornamental plant.

  18. Seasonal Interest: Its unique seed heads provide visual interest in the garden, especially when they catch the wind.

  19. Low Maintenance: Greater Quaking Grass is relatively low-maintenance and doesn't require frequent care.

  20. Hardiness Zones: It can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 3-10.

  21. Seed Viability: Seeds of this grass can remain viable in the soil for several years.

  22. Cool-Season Grass: It is a cool-season grass, meaning it thrives in cooler temperatures.

  23. Invasive Potential: In some regions, Greater Quaking Grass can be considered invasive due to its self-seeding nature.

  24. Cultural Significance: In some cultures, the grass is associated with superstitions and is believed to bring good luck.

  25. Erosion Control: It is sometimes used for erosion control in gardens and landscaping.

  26. Medicinal Uses: In traditional herbal medicine, it has been used for various purposes, including as a mild sedative.

  27. Easy to Grow: Greater Quaking Grass is considered an easy-to-grow plant, making it suitable for novice gardeners.

  28. Companion Planting: It can be used in companion planting to attract beneficial insects to the garden.

  29. Drying and Preserving: The unique seed heads of this grass are often dried and preserved for decorative purposes in floral arrangements.

  30. Symbolism: In some cultures, Greater Quaking Grass symbolizes change and transformation, given its shifting seed heads.

Please note that the information provided is based on general knowledge, and specific details about Greater Quaking Grass may vary based on local conditions and cultivars.


Greater Quaking Grass filmed at Lytham St. Anne's in Lancashire on the 12th June 2023.


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Distribution Map

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