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Bulbous Foxtail

Alopecurus bulbosus

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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 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, 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:
80 centimetres tall
Ditches, fens, fields, gardens, grassland, marshes, meadows, saltmarshes, seaside, walls.

Green, no petals
Greenish-purple cylindrical flower spikes.
A one-seeded fruit called a caryopsis.
Flat, smooth, linear leaves. Short stipules. Perennial.
Other Names:
Bulbous Meadow Foxtail.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Alopecurus bulbosus is a species of grass known by the common name bulbous meadow-foxtail. It is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa, and is a herbaceous perennial plant that can grow up to 40 cm tall. The leaves are up to 15 cm long and are about 3 mm wide. The flowers are arranged in a dense, cylindrical spike, and are greenish or purplish in color. It typically grows in wet meadows, fens, and other damp habitats, it may be considered as a weed in agricultural fields or gardens.


Bulbous foxtail, scientific name Alopecurus bulbosus, is a perennial grass species that is native to Europe and parts of Asia. This plant is commonly found in meadows, pastures, and grasslands, where it forms dense clumps and is an important component of grassland ecosystems. In this blog, we will take a closer look at the characteristics of bulbous foxtail and its ecological significance.

Physical Characteristics of Bulbous Foxtail

Bulbous foxtail grows to a height of 30-80 cm (12-31 inches) and has erect stems that are typically hairless or slightly hairy. The leaves are flat and narrow, with a bluish-green color, and are arranged alternately along the stem. The inflorescence of bulbous foxtail is a dense cylindrical spike that is 2-10 cm (0.8-4 inches) long and 1-1.5 cm (0.4-0.6 inches) wide. The spike is composed of numerous spikelets, each of which contains 2-5 flowers. The flowers are greenish-yellow and have a bristly appearance, which gives the plant its common name of "foxtail."

Ecological Significance of Bulbous Foxtail

Bulbous foxtail is an important component of grassland ecosystems because it provides food and habitat for a variety of insects and animals. The dense clumps of bulbous foxtail provide cover for small mammals and birds, while the leaves and stems are grazed by larger herbivores such as deer and cattle. The seeds of bulbous foxtail are an important food source for birds such as finches and sparrows, and the nectar of the flowers attracts bees and other pollinators.

In addition to its ecological significance, bulbous foxtail has also been used for various medicinal purposes. The plant contains a number of bioactive compounds, including alkaloids and flavonoids, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In traditional medicine, bulbous foxtail has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including arthritis, rheumatism, and digestive disorders.

Management of Bulbous Foxtail

While bulbous foxtail has many ecological and medicinal benefits, it can also be a problematic weed in agricultural settings. The dense clumps of the plant can reduce the productivity of pastures and hayfields, and the sharp bristles of the seed heads can irritate the eyes and skin of animals that ingest the plant. In order to manage bulbous foxtail in agricultural settings, a variety of control methods may be used, including mowing, grazing, and herbicide application.

Bulbous foxtail is a fascinating plant species that has many ecological and medicinal benefits. While it can be a problematic weed in agricultural settings, it is an important component of grassland ecosystems and provides food and habitat for a variety of insects and animals. By understanding the physical characteristics and ecological significance of bulbous foxtail, we can better appreciate the complexity and beauty of the natural world.

More Information

Bulbous foxtail is a relatively hardy plant and can tolerate a wide range of soil types and growing conditions. It is able to grow in acidic and alkaline soils, and can withstand periods of drought and heavy grazing pressure. However, it prefers well-drained soils that are rich in nutrients, and it thrives in areas with moderate to high levels of precipitation.

Bulbous foxtail is also known for its ability to reseed and spread quickly, which can make it difficult to control in some situations. The plant produces large quantities of seeds, which are dispersed by wind and animals. Once established, bulbous foxtail can form dense stands that outcompete other plant species and reduce biodiversity in grassland ecosystems.

Despite its potential as a weed, bulbous foxtail has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and has shown promise in modern medical research. The plant contains compounds that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and may have potential for treating a range of health conditions. However, more research is needed to fully understand the therapeutic potential of bulbous foxtail and to develop safe and effective medicinal products.

In addition to its medicinal uses, bulbous foxtail has also been used for forage and as a source of hay. The plant is high in protein and other nutrients, making it a valuable feed source for livestock. However, the sharp bristles of the seed heads can cause injury to animals that ingest the plant, and care should be taken when using bulbous foxtail as forage or hay.

Bulbous foxtail has also been used in traditional folk medicine for its diuretic, astringent, and tonic properties. It has been used to treat ailments such as urinary tract infections, liver and gallbladder problems, diarrhea, and fever. The plant has also been used topically to treat wounds, cuts, and skin infections.

In addition to its medicinal and ecological significance, bulbous foxtail has cultural and historical importance as well. In Europe, the plant has been used in traditional folk rituals and customs. For example, in some parts of Ireland, the plant was believed to have magical properties and was used in love spells and charms. In England, the plant was used as a decorative element in May Day celebrations and other festivals.

Bulbous foxtail has also been the subject of scientific research in recent years. Studies have focused on the plant's bioactive compounds and their potential therapeutic effects, as well as its ecological significance and potential as a forage crop. The plant's ability to tolerate a wide range of growing conditions and its high nutrient content make it an attractive candidate for sustainable agriculture and as a potential source of biofuels.

In conclusion, bulbous foxtail is a versatile and fascinating plant species that has played an important role in traditional medicine, agriculture, and culture for centuries. While it can be a problematic weed in some situations, its ecological and medicinal benefits make it a valuable resource in grassland ecosystems and for human health. Further research into the plant's properties and potential uses may lead to new discoveries and applications for this unique and valuable plant species.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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