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Ratstail Fescue

Vulpia myuros

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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, 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
Fields, gardens, grassland, lawns, roadsides, walls, wasteland.

Purple, no petals
Purplish-green drooping clusters of flowers (panicles), up to 8 inches long (20cm). Spikelets are arranged alternately along the flower stem and have between 3 and 6 florets each (usually 4 or 5). The spikelets each measure between 0.5 and 1.2cm long. Very long-awned.
A caryopsis, about 4mm in length. A caryopsis is a kind of dry, one-seeded fruit common to all species of grass.
Finely pointed, linear leaves, up to 3mm wide. Smooth or almost no hair at all. The stems of Ratstail Fescue are very thin and hairlike. Annual.
Other Names:
Annual Fescue, Foxtail Fescue, Rat-tail Fescue, Red-tailed Fescue, Six Weeks Grass, Zorro Annual Fescue.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Vulpia myuros, also known as rat-tail fescue, is a small annual grass that is native to Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is similar in appearance to Vulpia bromoides, but it can be distinguished by its characteristic "rat-tail" shaped inflorescence.

It is typically grows to a height of 6-12 inches, and it has thin, delicate leaves that are blue-green in color. It typically flowers in the spring or early summer and produces small spikelet clusters at the top of the stem.

It is generally considered to be a weed of cultivated land, and is often found in fields, gardens, and along roadsides. It can be a problem in crops such as cereals, vegetables, and ornamental plants. like its relative, it is not much used for forage for livestock or wildlife, as it is not considered to be palatable.

In addition to being a weed, it is a host for various plant pathogens and pests such as rusts and aphids which can cause damage to cultivated plants.

Control of Vulpia myuros can be done using similar methods as its relative, such as chemical herbicides, mulching, proper crop rotation and competition with other plants, also hand pulling or mowing.


Ratstail fescue and Vulpia myuros are two species of grass that are commonly found in North America. While these two plants may look similar, they are actually quite different in terms of their growth habits and ecological roles.

Ratstail fescue, also known as Vulpia myuros var. hirsuta, is a cool-season grass that is native to Europe, but has been introduced to North America. It is a slender grass that grows to about 1-2 feet tall and has long, narrow leaves. The seed heads of ratstail fescue are distinctive, with long, thin, cylindrical spikes that resemble a rat's tail.

Ratstail fescue is often considered a weed because it can quickly invade disturbed or overgrazed areas. It is particularly well-adapted to dry, sandy soils and can tolerate drought and heat. However, ratstail fescue is not considered a major threat to native plant communities in North America.

Vulpia myuros, on the other hand, is a native species of grass in North America. It is also known as rat's-tail fescue or foxtail fescue, and is found throughout much of the western United States. Vulpia myuros is a small annual grass that grows to about 1-2 feet tall and has fine, thread-like leaves.

The seed heads of Vulpia myuros are similar in appearance to those of ratstail fescue, with long, cylindrical spikes. However, Vulpia myuros seed heads are more compact and dense than those of ratstail fescue.

While Vulpia myuros is not considered a major weed in North America, it can be a problem in areas where grazing is intensive. It is also known to invade disturbed areas, and can sometimes outcompete native plant species.

In terms of ecological roles, both ratstail fescue and Vulpia myuros are important sources of food for wildlife. Small mammals and birds often feed on the seeds of these grasses, while deer and other ungulates will sometimes browse on the foliage.

Ratstail fescue and Vulpia myuros are both important forage plants for livestock in some areas. They are relatively drought-tolerant and can provide valuable forage during periods of low precipitation.

In terms of management, control of ratstail fescue and Vulpia myuros can be challenging due to their ability to quickly invade disturbed areas. Management strategies for these grasses typically involve a combination of cultural, mechanical, and chemical control methods.

Cultural control methods may include maintaining healthy soils and reducing soil disturbance, as well as implementing grazing or mowing regimes that promote the growth of desirable plant species. Mechanical control methods may involve manually removing or mowing the grasses, while chemical control methods may involve the use of herbicides.

It is important to note that the use of herbicides for control of ratstail fescue and Vulpia myuros can have unintended consequences, including potential impacts on non-target plant and animal species. Therefore, it is important to carefully consider the use of herbicides and to use them in accordance with label instructions and best management practices.

In conclusion, while ratstail fescue and Vulpia myuros are often considered weeds, they are also important sources of food for wildlife and valuable forage plants for livestock in some areas. Management of these grasses can be challenging, and requires a combination of cultural, mechanical, and chemical control methods. It is important to carefully consider management strategies and to use herbicides in accordance with label instructions and best management practices.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map