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Downy Oat-grass

Avenula pubescens

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, 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, 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:
1 metre tall
Cliffs, grassland, meadows, roadsides, sand dunes, woodland.

Green, no petals
The light brown (sometimes red-tinged) flowers are in a raceme, up to 7 inches (18cm) long. Spikelets have 2 or 3 flowers each. The silvery spikelets have bent awns and are 1 to 1.5cm long. Similar to Meadow Oat-grass (Avenula pratensis) but the inflorescence is broader and more branched.
The fruit is called a light brown caryopsis which is a type of dry, one-seeded fruit.
A perennial grass with linear, hairy leaves.
Other Names:
Downy Alpine Oatgrass.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Avenula pubescens, commonly known as Downy Oatgrass, is a species of grass that is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. It is a perennial grass that typically grows to be around 20-100 cm tall. It has a tufted habit, and the leaves are flat and 2-5 mm wide. It blooms in summer and its inflorescence is a narrow panicle, 8-15 cm long and 2-4 mm wide, with spikelets that are yellow-green in color. This plant is commonly found in meadows, pastures, and along roadsides. It is also used as forage for livestock and as an ornamental plant. It is considered as a weed in some parts of the world.


Downy oat-grass, also known as Avenula pubescens, is a type of grass that is commonly found in Europe and Asia. It belongs to the family Poaceae, which includes many other types of grasses such as wheat, corn, and barley.

Appearance and Habitat

Downy oat-grass is a perennial plant that typically grows to a height of around 50-100 cm. It has long, narrow leaves that are soft to the touch due to a fine layer of hairs that cover them. The plant's inflorescence consists of spikelets that are arranged in a panicle, which can be up to 25 cm long.

This grass is commonly found in meadows, pastures, and open woodlands, where it prefers well-drained soils that are rich in nutrients. It is also known to grow in rocky areas and on slopes.

Uses and Benefits

Downy oat-grass has several uses and benefits. It is often used as a forage for livestock, as it is highly palatable and provides good nutrition. Additionally, the plant's roots are known to help prevent soil erosion, making it a valuable component of land conservation efforts.

In traditional medicine, Downy oat-grass has been used to treat a variety of ailments. Its leaves and stems are known to have anti-inflammatory properties, and have been used to ease pain and reduce swelling. The plant's roots are also believed to have diuretic properties, and have been used to treat urinary tract infections.

In recent years, Downy oat-grass has gained attention for its potential as a biofuel crop. Studies have shown that it has a high energy content and can be easily converted into biofuels such as ethanol and butanol.

Conservation Status

While Downy oat-grass is not currently listed as endangered or threatened, it is still important to conserve and protect the plant. Habitat loss and degradation, as well as overgrazing by livestock, are the biggest threats to the species.

In order to conserve Downy oat-grass, it is important to protect its natural habitat and promote sustainable agricultural practices that minimize the impact on the plant and its ecosystem.

Ecological Role

Downy oat-grass is an important plant species in many ecosystems, playing a key role in soil stabilization and nutrient cycling. It is a source of food for many grazing animals, including deer, sheep, and cattle. Its roots help to anchor the soil, preventing erosion and promoting healthy soil structure.

Cultivation and Management

Downy oat-grass is a relatively easy plant to grow and manage. It can be propagated by seed or by dividing established clumps of the plant. It prefers well-drained soils and full sunlight, but can also tolerate partial shade.

In agricultural settings, it is often used as a forage crop for livestock, as it is highly palatable and provides good nutrition. It can be grazed or harvested for hay or silage. In conservation settings, it is often used to restore degraded or eroded soils.

Medicinal Properties

Downy oat-grass has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. Its leaves and stems are known to have anti-inflammatory properties, and have been used to ease pain and reduce swelling. The plant's roots are also believed to have diuretic properties, and have been used to treat urinary tract infections.

Recent research has also suggested that Downy oat-grass may have potential as a treatment for diabetes. Studies have shown that it may help to regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.


Downy oat-grass can be propagated through seeds or by dividing established clumps. Seeds can be sown directly into the soil in the spring or fall, while division is best done in the spring or early fall. The plant prefers well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade.

Cultural Significance

In some cultures, Downy oat-grass has cultural and symbolic significance. In Finnish folklore, it is believed that Downy oat-grass can protect against evil spirits and bring good luck. In Norse mythology, the plant was associated with the god Thor and was said to provide protection and strength.

In modern times, Downy oat-grass is often used in landscaping and ornamental gardens for its soft, delicate appearance and easy maintenance.


Like many plant species, Downy oat-grass is threatened by habitat loss and degradation due to human activities such as agriculture, land development, and urbanization. Overgrazing by livestock can also be a threat to the plant, as it can reduce its population size and limit its ability to reproduce.

Conservation Efforts

Several conservation efforts are underway to protect and conserve Downy oat-grass and its habitat. In some areas, protected areas have been established to preserve the plant and its ecosystem. Additionally, sustainable agricultural practices are being promoted to minimize the impact of farming and grazing on the plant.

Research is also being conducted to better understand the plant's ecological role and medicinal properties, which may help to inform conservation and management efforts in the future.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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