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Silver Hair-grass

Aira caryophyllea

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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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 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, 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
Cliffs, fields, gardens, grassland, heathland, meadows, rocky places, sand dunes, walls.

Brown, no petals
Short-awned, silvery brown spikelets arranged inside a panicle, up to 12cm long. Spikelets are each about 3mm long and there are 2 florets per spikelet.
The fruits of grass species are known as caryopses. These are a type of one-seeded, dry fruit.
linear leaves with rough leaf sheaths. The leaf blades measure anything up to 2.5cm wide. Annual.
Other Names:
Common Silver Hair Grass, Feather Hairgrass, Mouse Grass.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Aira caryophyllea, also known as Silver Hairgrass or Feather Hairgrass, is a species of grass in the Poaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia, and is commonly found in grassland habitats such as meadows, prairies, and rocky slopes. It is a small, perennial grass that forms dense tussocks or clumps and can grow up to 30 cm tall. The leaves are fine and bright green, and the flowers are formed in thin, dense spikes that are greenish-white in color, and appear in late spring to early summer. The spikes are surrounded by a dense ring of silvery-white hair-like bristles that give the plant its common name. This grass species is commonly used in ornamental gardening and landscaping, as well as for erosion control on slopes and in other landscaping projects. It is also used as a forage grass for livestock and wildlife, and it is known to be tolerant of heavy grazing and of poor soil.


Silver hair-grass (Aira caryophyllea) is a beautiful and delicate plant that is native to Europe and Asia. It is a member of the Poaceae family, which includes many important cereal crops such as wheat, rice, and corn. Silver hair-grass is a perennial grass that grows in small, dense tufts and can reach heights of up to 30 cm.

One of the most distinctive features of silver hair-grass is its silvery-grey color, which is due to the tiny, hair-like structures that cover the leaves and stems. These hairs help to reflect sunlight and protect the plant from drying out in hot, arid environments. The leaves of silver hair-grass are narrow and pointed, and the inflorescence is a delicate, open panicle with slender branches.

Silver hair-grass is commonly found in dry, sandy or rocky habitats such as grasslands, heathlands, and open woodlands. It is adapted to these environments by developing a deep, fibrous root system that allows it to access moisture and nutrients from the soil. In addition, silver hair-grass is tolerant of low-nutrient soils and can thrive in areas with low levels of nitrogen and other important nutrients.

One of the reasons that silver hair-grass is so popular in horticulture is its low-maintenance requirements. It is a hardy plant that can withstand drought and moderate levels of foot traffic, making it ideal for use in low-traffic areas such as rock gardens, borders, and meadows. It is also a great choice for erosion control and soil stabilization, as its deep root system helps to prevent soil from washing away in heavy rain or wind.

In addition to its practical uses, silver hair-grass is also valued for its aesthetic qualities. Its silvery-grey color and delicate texture make it an attractive addition to any garden, and it looks particularly striking when planted in mass groupings. It is also a popular choice for use in floral arrangements, as its open panicle and slender branches add an airy, delicate quality to bouquets and centerpieces.

Silver hair-grass is also known for its ecological importance as it provides food and shelter to various insects, birds, and small mammals. The flowers of silver hair-grass are wind-pollinated and produce large amounts of pollen, making them an important food source for many types of pollinators, including bees and butterflies.

The grass also serves as a habitat for a variety of small invertebrates, such as spiders and beetles, which in turn provide food for larger predators such as birds and lizards. Small mammals such as rabbits and rodents also use silver hair-grass as a food source and for cover.

In addition to its ecological benefits, silver hair-grass has also been used for medicinal purposes in traditional herbal medicine. The plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive issues, respiratory infections, and skin irritations.

It is important to note that while silver hair-grass is a beautiful and useful plant, it can also become invasive in certain areas. In North America, for example, it has been identified as a potential threat to native grasslands and ecosystems. It is therefore important to consider the potential impact of introducing silver hair-grass into new environments and to take steps to prevent its spread.

Silver hair-grass is also known for its ability to grow in poor soils and harsh environments, making it a valuable plant for land restoration and erosion control. Its deep root system helps to stabilize soil and prevent erosion, and its ability to grow in low-nutrient soils makes it a useful plant for reclaiming degraded areas.

The plant is also used in traditional weaving and basketry, particularly in Japan where it is known as “gaku-zasa”. The slender stems of silver hair-grass are harvested and dried, then woven into intricate baskets, mats, and other decorative objects. These traditional crafts are an important part of Japanese cultural heritage and continue to be practiced today.

In terms of cultivation, silver hair-grass is a relatively low-maintenance plant that requires little watering or fertilization. It prefers well-drained soils and full sun, but can also tolerate some shade. The plant can be propagated by seed or by dividing existing clumps in the spring or fall.

In conclusion, silver hair-grass is a fascinating and versatile plant with a range of practical, ecological, and cultural uses. Whether used for erosion control, land restoration, weaving, or simply as a decorative plant in the garden, silver hair-grass is sure to add beauty and value to any landscape. As with all plants, it is important to consider the potential impact of introducing silver hair-grass into new environments, and to take steps to ensure that it is grown responsibly and sustainably.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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