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Somerset Hair-grass

Koeleria vallesiana

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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, 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, 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:
50 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, grassland, meadows, parks, rocky places.

Green, no petals
Cylindrical flower spikes. The glumes have a broad, silvery margin. Wind pollinated.
The fruit is a caryopsis. This is a type of dry, one-seeded fruit.
A rare perennial grass species found only in Somerset (UK). The leaves are hair-like and flat.
Other Names:
Valley Hairgrass.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Koeleria vallesiana, also known as Valley 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 perennial grass that forms dense tussocks or clumps, with a height that ranges from 30-50 cm. The leaves are narrow and fine, green or bluish-green in color, and have distinctive auricles (small ear-like appendages) at the base. The flowers are formed in dense, spike-like panicles, which are golden-brown in color and appear in summer. This grass species is commonly used in ornamental gardening and landscaping, and also as a forage grass for livestock. It is tolerant of heavy grazing and is known to be drought-resistant. It is considered to be a less aggressive and more delicate alternative to Koeleria macrantha, which is often invasive.


Somerset Hair-grass, scientifically known as Koeleria vallesiana, is a species of grass that is native to Europe, specifically to the Mediterranean region. It belongs to the family Poaceae, which is the fifth-largest plant family in the world. Somerset Hair-grass is a perennial grass that grows in clumps and is often used as a forage crop for livestock.

Description and Habitat

Somerset Hair-grass is a small grass that typically grows to a height of 30-50 cm. It has narrow leaves that are green or gray-green in color and are usually rolled inwards. The inflorescence of the grass is a narrow, erect spike that is about 10-20 cm long. The spike is composed of numerous small, spikelet flowers that are yellowish-green in color.

Somerset Hair-grass is adapted to grow in a range of habitats, including dry grasslands, rocky slopes, and cliffs. It is often found growing in calcareous soils and can tolerate both acidic and alkaline soils. The grass is also tolerant of drought and can survive in areas with low rainfall.

Uses and Benefits

Somerset Hair-grass is a valuable forage crop for livestock, particularly sheep and goats. It is high in protein and nutrients and is often used as a supplement to other forage crops. The grass is also used in erosion control and as a ground cover in gardens and landscaping.

In addition to its practical uses, Somerset Hair-grass is also of ecological importance. It provides habitat for a variety of insect species, including butterflies and moths. The grass is also a source of food for birds, particularly seed-eating birds like finches.

Conservation Status

Somerset Hair-grass is classified as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, it is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation due to urbanization and agriculture. In some areas, the grass has also been affected by the invasion of non-native plant species. Efforts are being made to conserve the grass and protect its habitat, including the establishment of protected areas and the removal of invasive species.

Somerset Hair-grass, Koeleria vallesiana, is a small but important grass species that has a variety of practical and ecological uses. It is a valuable forage crop for livestock and provides habitat for a range of insect and bird species. While it is currently classified as a species of Least Concern, efforts are needed to protect its habitat and prevent further loss and fragmentation of its populations.

More Information

Somerset Hair-grass is a relatively unknown species of grass, but it has potential for a variety of applications beyond its current uses. For example, it could be used in the production of biofuels, as it has been found to have a high sugar content that can be converted into ethanol. Additionally, the grass has been studied for its potential use in phytoremediation, a process in which plants are used to remove contaminants from soil or water. Somerset Hair-grass has been found to be effective at removing heavy metals from contaminated soil, making it a potentially useful tool for environmental cleanup efforts.

In terms of its genetics, the genome of Somerset Hair-grass has been sequenced, which could lead to further understanding of the grass and its potential uses. The sequencing of its genome could also aid in the development of new cultivars that are better adapted to specific environmental conditions or have enhanced traits, such as increased drought tolerance or higher protein content.

Another interesting aspect of Somerset Hair-grass is its role in traditional medicine. In some parts of Europe, the grass has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including fever, headaches, and digestive issues. Some studies have also found that extracts from the grass have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which could have potential applications in modern medicine.

Somerset Hair-grass is also a plant that is particularly well-suited to climate change. It is a drought-tolerant species that can survive in areas with low rainfall, and it has been found to be more resistant to heat stress than other grass species. As temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, Somerset Hair-grass could become an important crop for farmers in areas that are particularly vulnerable to heat and drought.

Somerset Hair-grass is also an important component of traditional agriculture in some regions of Europe. For example, in the Pyrenees region of France and Spain, farmers have traditionally used the grass to make a type of hay known as "cromlech" or "cromlecq". This hay is made by cutting the grass in early summer, allowing it to dry in the sun, and then stacking it in small mounds called "cromlechs". The hay is then used as winter fodder for livestock.

The production of cromlech hay has been an important part of the agricultural economy of the Pyrenees for centuries, and it has also contributed to the conservation of Somerset Hair-grass populations in the region. However, changes in agricultural practices and land use have led to a decline in cromlech production and a loss of grassland habitats. Efforts are currently underway to revive the production of cromlech hay and to protect the grasslands where Somerset Hair-grass grows.

In addition, Somerset Hair-grass is an example of the importance of plant diversity for ecosystem health. Grasslands are some of the most biodiverse habitats on Earth, and they play a critical role in supporting a wide range of wildlife, from insects and birds to large mammals like bison and elk. By protecting and conserving grassland habitats, we can help to preserve the incredible diversity of life on our planet.

Overall, Somerset Hair-grass is a small but important species of grass that has a variety of practical, ecological, and cultural uses. By recognizing its value and taking steps to protect and conserve it, we can help to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for ourselves and for the planet.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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