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Mat Grass

Nardus stricta

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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 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:
30 centimetres tall
Bogs, fields, grassland, heathland, meadows, moorland, mountains, riverbanks, riversides, roadsides, rocky places, seaside, wasteland.

Purple, no petals
The flowers of Mat Grass (Nardus stricta) typically appear in cylindrical, densely packed clusters known as spikelets. These spikelets are purplish-brown in color and are small and narrow, often observed in heathland or grassland habitats across the UK. The flowers emit a subtle charm, with their understated beauty accentuating the rugged landscapes where Mat Grass thrives.
The fruit of Mat Grass (Nardus stricta) is known as a "caryopsis," which is a type of dry, one-seeded fruit. These fruits are small and typically brownish in colour, often observed in heathland or grassland habitats across the UK. The caryopses are inconspicuous but play a vital role in the plant's reproductive cycle, contributing to its resilience and propagation in various landscapes.
The leaves of Mat Grass (Nardus stricta) are narrow and typically known as "blades." These blades are slender, stiff, and usually have a green hue, often observed in heathland or grassland habitats across the UK. They form tufts or mats, contributing to the plant's characteristic appearance and are adapted to dry, open areas, providing resilience against harsh environmental conditions.
Mat Grass (Nardus stricta) emits a sweet, hay-like fragrance when the plant is crushed or disturbed. This subtle scent is pleasant and often noticeable in areas where the grass grows, particularly in heathland or grassland habitats across the UK. Despite its understated nature, the fragrance adds a delicate touch to the surroundings, contributing to the sensory experience of the landscape.
Other Names:
Mat Weed, Moor Matgrass, Nard Grass, Rush Matgrass, White Grass, Wire-grass.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Nardus stricta, also known as matgrass or rush matgrass, is a species of grass native to Europe and Asia. It is a low-growing, mat-forming perennial grass that typically grows to a height of 30 cm. It has fine, hair-like leaves and small, inconspicuous spikes of flowers. It typically grows in upland habitats, including moorlands, bogs, rocky outcrops and alpine meadows, where it forms dense, matted stands that are an important component of the local ecosystem. It can tolerate a range of soil types, including acidic, nutrient-poor soils, and can be found in both wet and dry habitats.

It is considered a valuable forage grass for grazing animals and it is also used as a component in seed mixtures for erosion control and as a ground cover on difficult sites. It can be propagated by seed or division and is relatively low maintenance and easy to grow. Nardus stricta can be used as an ornamental grass, it's attractive and fine texture can be used to create a naturalistic look in gardens and landscape. It's also an important component of many valuable habitats and ecosystems, it's often included in conservation projects and restoration efforts.


Mat Grass, also known as Nardus stricta, is a species of grass that is native to Europe and parts of Asia. It is a perennial grass that grows in dense mats, hence its name. Mat Grass is well adapted to thrive in harsh environments, making it an important species in the ecology of alpine and subalpine regions.

Physical Characteristics

Mat Grass has long, slender leaves that are typically about 5-10cm in length. Its flowers are small and spike-like, and are usually arranged in dense clusters. Mat Grass is a low-growing plant, with a maximum height of around 30cm. It is often found growing in dense, mat-like patches, hence its common name.


Mat Grass is well adapted to thrive in harsh environments. It is a common species in alpine and subalpine regions, where it can withstand extreme temperatures and harsh weather conditions. Mat Grass is an important species in these regions, as it helps to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. It is also an important food source for many grazing animals, including sheep and mountain goats.

Conservation Status

Mat Grass is not considered to be a threatened species. However, it is an important component of many alpine and subalpine ecosystems, and its loss could have significant ecological impacts. As such, it is important to ensure that its habitat is protected, and that its populations remain healthy and stable.


Mat Grass has a number of traditional medicinal uses. It has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive problems, respiratory issues, and fever. It is also sometimes used as a flavoring in foods and beverages.

In addition to its medicinal uses, Mat Grass is sometimes used as a ornamental plant. Its low-growing, mat-like habit makes it a popular choice for rock gardens and other low-maintenance landscapes.

Mat Grass, also known as Nardus stricta, is an important species in the ecology of alpine and subalpine regions. It is well adapted to thrive in harsh environments, and is an important food source for many grazing animals. While it is not considered to be a threatened species, its loss could have significant ecological impacts, making it important to protect its habitat and ensure the health of its populations.

More Information

Mat Grass is also known for its ability to grow in nutrient-poor soils. It is well adapted to survive in environments with low levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, which are essential nutrients for plant growth. This ability makes it an important species in ecosystems where nutrient availability is limited, such as alpine and subalpine regions.

In addition to its ecological importance, Mat Grass has cultural significance in some parts of Europe. In traditional Scottish folklore, Mat Grass was believed to have magical properties, and was used in various rituals and ceremonies.

Despite its hardiness and adaptability, Mat Grass is vulnerable to environmental stressors such as climate change and habitat loss. As temperatures warm and precipitation patterns shift, the distribution and abundance of Mat Grass populations may be affected. Conservation efforts are necessary to ensure the continued health and stability of Mat Grass populations, and to preserve the important ecological functions that it serves.

Mat Grass also plays an important role in soil conservation. Its dense, mat-like growth pattern helps to stabilize soil and prevent erosion, which is especially important in high-altitude environments where soil erosion can be a significant problem. By anchoring the soil with its roots and reducing the impact of wind and water, Mat Grass helps to maintain the integrity of alpine and subalpine landscapes.

In addition to its ecological and cultural importance, Mat Grass has potential for use in ecological restoration and land reclamation projects. Its ability to grow in nutrient-poor soils and harsh environments makes it a promising candidate for restoring degraded landscapes and mine sites.

Mat Grass is a valuable species that contributes to the diversity and resilience of alpine and subalpine ecosystems. As our understanding of the ecological importance of Mat Grass continues to grow, it is important to take steps to protect and preserve this species and the ecosystems that it supports. By conserving Mat Grass and its habitats, we can help to ensure the health and stability of alpine and subalpine ecosystems for future generations.

30 Facts About Mat Grass

Here are 30 interesting facts about Mat Grass:

  1. Scientific Name: Mat Grass is scientifically known as "Nardus stricta."
  2. Habitat: It thrives in dry, open areas, including grasslands, heaths, and moors.
  3. Appearance: Mat Grass typically grows in tufts or mats, with slender, stiff stems.
  4. Height: It can reach heights of around 20-60 centimeters (8-24 inches).
  5. Perennial Grass: Mat Grass is a perennial plant, persisting for several years.
  6. Geographical Distribution: It is found across Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa.
  7. Ecological Importance: Mat Grass is a significant component of heathland ecosystems.
  8. Fire-Resistant: Its dense, low-growing nature makes it fire-resistant and crucial in fire-prone regions.
  9. Wildlife Habitat: Mat Grass provides habitat and cover for various small animals and insects.
  10. Soil Stabilization: Its roots help stabilize soil in erosion-prone areas.
  11. Scent: When crushed, Mat Grass emits a sweet, hay-like fragrance.
  12. Land Reclamation: It's used in land reclamation due to its ability to grow in challenging environments.
  13. Medicinal Uses: Historically, it was used in herbal medicine for its astringent and diuretic properties.
  14. Cultural Significance: In some cultures, Mat Grass has been used in thatching roofs and as a bedding material.
  15. Soil Acidification: It can contribute to acidification in some soils due to its decomposition.
  16. Carbon Storage: Mat Grass, like other plants, plays a role in carbon sequestration.
  17. Invasive Species: In certain areas, Mat Grass can be invasive and outcompete native species.
  18. Grazing and Foraging: Some animals feed on Mat Grass, though it's not a preferred forage due to its tough texture.
  19. Reproductive Strategy: It reproduces via seeds and also vegetatively through tillering.
  20. Conservation: In some regions, efforts are made to protect and restore Mat Grass populations.
  21. Flowering: Its flower heads are cylindrical and often purplish-brown in color.
  22. Drought Tolerance: Mat Grass exhibits resilience in dry and arid conditions.
  23. Biodiversity Support: While not as diverse as other grasslands, Mat Grass still supports a range of plant and animal species.
  24. Soil Improvement: Its deep roots aid in improving soil structure.
  25. Culinary Uses: Historically, Mat Grass seeds were used as a food source in some cultures.
  26. Nitrogen Fixation: It has the ability to fix nitrogen, contributing to soil fertility.
  27. Conservation Grazing: Grazing management is used in some areas to conserve Mat Grass habitats.
  28. Weed Control: In some cases, it's used in weed suppression due to its dense growth.
  29. Ecological Succession: Mat Grass plays a role in early stages of ecological succession.
  30. Adaptation: Its adaptations allow it to survive in harsh, less fertile environments.

These facts showcase the ecological, cultural, and environmental significance of Mat Grass in various landscapes.


Mat Grass filmed at the following locations:
  • Kentmere, Cumbria: 1st June 2023
  • Austwick, Yorkshire Dales: 2nd June 2023

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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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