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Echinochloa crus-galli

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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, 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, 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:
140 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, lawns, wasteland.

Green, no petals
2-flowered, compact spikelets (each 3 or 4mm long). The awns are 2 to 4cm long but Cockspur is sometimes awnless. Wind pollinated.
The fruit is a caryopsis which is a kind of dry, one-seeded fruit, containing the seeds. The seeds ripen from August to October.
The leaves are long, smooth and flat (up to 2cm wide). They are often purplish around their bases. No ligules. Usually seen growing on rubbish tips or other cultivated waste places. Annual.
Other Names:
Barnyard Grass, Barnyard Millet, Barnyardgrass, Cockspur Grass, Cockspur Grass, Common Barnyard Grass, Japanese Millet, Water Grass.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Echinochloa crus-galli, also known as cockspur grass or barnyard grass, is a species of grass in the family Poaceae. It is native to Europe, but it has been introduced to many other parts of the world and is now found on every continent except Antarctica. Cockspur grass is an annual grass that grows in a variety of habitats, including fields, pastures, and waste areas. It has long, narrow leaves and produces small, brown or purple flowers that are arranged in dense clusters. The plant is considered a weed in many parts of the world due to its ability to grow aggressively and displace native vegetation.


Cockspur, Echinochloa crus-galli, is a species of grass that is widely found in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. This fast-growing weed is a persistent problem for farmers and gardeners, as it can quickly take over crops, gardens, and lawns, reducing yields and causing damage to desirable plants. In this blog, we will explore the characteristics and impacts of Cockspur, and discuss the best methods for controlling this invasive weed.

Appearance: Cockspur is a distinctive grass, easily recognizable by its bright green leaves and stiff, spiky seed heads. The leaves are flat and narrow, with rough edges, and grow to about 2-3 feet in length. The seed heads are distinctive, growing to around 4-6 inches in length and composed of many small, stiff spikes.

Impacts: Cockspur is a highly invasive weed, spreading quickly and colonizing large areas of land in a short amount of time. This is due to its ability to produce large amounts of seed, which can remain viable in the soil for several years. In addition to its fast growth, Cockspur is also extremely competitive, outpacing and shading desirable plants, reducing their growth and yields.

Control: Controlling Cockspur requires a multi-pronged approach, incorporating a combination of cultural, physical, and chemical methods. For example:

  • Cultural control: Keeping the soil moist and fertilized, and planting dense stands of desirable plants, can help reduce the amount of space available for Cockspur to grow.
  • Physical control: Hand-pulling or digging out Cockspur plants can be effective, especially for small infestations. It is important to remove the entire plant, including the roots, to prevent re-sprouting.
  • Chemical control: Herbicides can be used to control Cockspur, but it is important to choose the right product and follow the label instructions carefully. It is also recommended to alternate between different herbicides to reduce the risk of developing resistance.

Conclusion: Cockspur, Echinochloa crus-galli, is a highly invasive weed that can quickly take over crops, gardens, and lawns. It is a persistent problem for farmers and gardeners, reducing yields and causing damage to desirable plants. Controlling Cockspur requires a multi-pronged approach, incorporating cultural, physical, and chemical methods. By understanding its characteristics and impacts, and implementing the best methods for controlling this weed, farmers and gardeners can reduce its spread and maintain the health of their crops and landscapes.

More Information

Cockspur is a warm-season annual grass that can grow up to 4-6 feet tall in favorable conditions. It is a prolific seed producer, and each plant can produce up to 20,000 seeds per season. These seeds are easily spread by wind, water, and animals, making it a particularly challenging weed to control. Cockspur is also tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions, including drought and soil salinity, which further contributes to its ability to spread and colonize new areas.

Cockspur can be found in a variety of habitats, including rice fields, pastures, and wetland margins. In rice fields, Cockspur can compete with the rice plants for water and nutrients, reducing yields and quality. In pastures, it can outcompete desirable forages, reducing the quality and quantity of forage available for livestock.

In addition to its impacts on crops and pasture, Cockspur is also a problem in landscaped areas and gardens. It is highly competitive, reducing the growth and vigor of desirable plants. It can also make mowing difficult, as its stiff seed heads can damage mowing equipment.

To effectively control Cockspur, it is important to use a combination of cultural, physical, and chemical methods. Cultural methods, such as mowing regularly, can help prevent seed production and reduce the spread of the weed. Physical methods, such as hand-pulling or digging, are effective for small infestations but can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. Chemical methods, such as herbicides, can be effective but must be used carefully to minimize any harm to non-target plants.

It is also important to implement preventative measures to minimize the spread of Cockspur. This can include using clean seed, practicing crop rotation, and reducing soil disturbance. Proper sanitation practices, such as removing and disposing of any Cockspur plants before they have a chance to produce seed, can also help prevent the spread of this weed.

In addition to its impact on crops, pastures, and landscaped areas, Cockspur can also be a problem for wildlife. It provides limited food and habitat value for wildlife, and can displace desirable native plant species, reducing biodiversity.

There are a number of biological control methods that have been studied for Cockspur, including the use of insect herbivores and fungal pathogens. These methods are still in the early stages of development, and more research is needed to determine their effectiveness and potential risks.

In summary, Cockspur, Echinochloa crus-galli, is a persistent and challenging weed that can have serious impacts on crops, pasture, and landscaped areas. It is important to understand the biology and behavior of this weed, and to implement a combination of cultural, physical, and chemical control methods to reduce its spread and impact. Preventative measures, such as clean seed, crop rotation, and sanitation practices, can also help minimize the spread of this weed. Ongoing monitoring and management are needed to maintain control of Cockspur and prevent its spread to new areas.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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