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Orange Foxtail

Alopecurus aequalis

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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, 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:
60 centimetres tall
Ditches, grassland, marshes, meadows, mud, waterside.

Green, no petals
A cylindrical flower spike with short white, yellow or orange to purplish anthers. Wind pollinated.
The fruit is dry and one-seeded. The fruits of grasses are known as caryopses.
Short, linear, grass-like leaves. Orange Foxtail is most often seen growing in drying mud.
Other Names:
Meadow Foxtail, Shortawn Foxtail, Sonoma Shortawn Foxtail.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Alopecurus aequalis, also known as meadow foxtail, is a species of grass native to Europe and Asia. It is a perennial grass that can grow up to 60 cm tall, and is characterized by its tufted growth habit. The leaves are rolled in the bud and have a prominent midrib. The inflorescence is a compact panicle, with spikelets that are awned. This species is commonly found in wet meadows, marshes, and along the shores of rivers and lakes, and it is also can be used for forage or hay production in grassland fields.


Orange foxtail, also known as Alopecurus aequalis, is a common grass species that can be found throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa. This annual grass typically grows in disturbed areas such as roadsides, agricultural fields, and waste places, and can also be found in natural habitats such as grasslands, meadows, and open woods.

Orange foxtail is a member of the Poaceae family, which includes many important agricultural crops such as wheat, rice, and corn. It is characterized by its dense, cylindrical spikes that resemble a fox's tail, which can grow up to 15 cm long. The spikes are usually orange to reddish-brown in color, hence the common name "orange foxtail."

The leaves of orange foxtail are flat and narrow, with a shiny, smooth texture. They are arranged alternately along the stem and can grow up to 30 cm long. The roots of orange foxtail are shallow and fibrous, which allows it to grow quickly in disturbed areas.

While orange foxtail is not considered a noxious weed, it can be a problematic species in certain situations. It is often found in crop fields, where it can compete with crops for nutrients, water, and sunlight. In addition, it can produce large amounts of seed, which can persist in the soil for several years, making it difficult to control.

Despite its potential negative impacts, orange foxtail does have some positive ecological and agricultural benefits. For example, it can provide food and habitat for a variety of wildlife, including birds and small mammals. In addition, it can help prevent soil erosion and improve soil health by adding organic matter to the soil.

Overall, orange foxtail is an interesting and important species that is worth learning more about. While it may be a challenge to control in certain situations, it can also provide valuable ecological and agricultural benefits. As with any species, it is important to understand its ecological role and potential impacts in order to make informed decisions about its management.

Orange foxtail is a prolific seed producer, with each spike containing up to 500 seeds. These seeds can be dispersed by wind, water, animals, and human activities, which can contribute to its widespread distribution.

In terms of its ecological importance, orange foxtail is a valuable food source for many species of birds and small mammals. It can also help prevent soil erosion by stabilizing soil with its extensive root system. Additionally, orange foxtail can be used as a cover crop to improve soil health and fertility.

However, orange foxtail can also be a problematic species in certain situations. In agricultural fields, it can compete with crops for nutrients, water, and sunlight, which can reduce crop yields. It can also interfere with harvest operations and increase the risk of fire due to its high fuel load.

Controlling orange foxtail can be challenging, as it can quickly establish and produce large amounts of seed. Cultural and mechanical control methods such as mowing, tilling, and planting competitive crops can be effective in reducing its abundance. Chemical control methods can also be used, although care must be taken to ensure that non-target species are not affected.

Orange foxtail can also have medicinal uses. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used to treat fever, inflammation, and headache. It is believed that the herb has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which can help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.

In addition, orange foxtail has potential as a bioenergy crop. Its fast growth and high biomass production make it a promising source of renewable energy. Research has shown that it can be used to produce biofuels such as ethanol and butanol, which can be used as a substitute for gasoline.

Furthermore, orange foxtail has cultural significance in some indigenous communities. For example, in the Lakota tribe of North America, it is known as "wicahpi pata" and is considered a sacred plant. It is believed to have healing powers and is used in traditional ceremonies.

In terms of conservation, orange foxtail is not considered to be a threatened species. However, like many grasses, it is vulnerable to habitat loss and degradation due to human activities such as urbanization and agriculture. Protecting and restoring its natural habitat can help to maintain healthy populations of this species and ensure its ecological and cultural significance for future generations.

Orange foxtail is also an important component of prairie and grassland ecosystems. These ecosystems provide critical habitat for many species of wildlife, including birds, small mammals, and insects. Orange foxtail can help to stabilize soil and prevent erosion in these habitats, as well as provide a source of food and cover for wildlife.

In addition, orange foxtail has potential for use in phytoremediation, which is a process that uses plants to remove pollutants from soil and water. Research has shown that orange foxtail can be effective at removing heavy metals such as lead and cadmium from contaminated soils.

Furthermore, orange foxtail has been studied for its potential as a natural dye. The plant contains a yellow pigment called luteolin, which can be extracted and used as a natural dye for textiles and other materials.

Finally, orange foxtail can also have economic importance as a forage crop for livestock. While it is not as palatable as other grass species, it can provide a source of food for livestock in areas where other forage crops are not available.

In summary, orange foxtail is a versatile and important grass species that has many ecological, agricultural, medicinal, energy, cultural, and economic benefits. Understanding its potential uses and benefits, as well as implementing appropriate management strategies, can help to ensure its continued importance for human and ecological well-being.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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