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Alpine Foxtail

Alopecurus magellanicus

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Poaceae (Grass)
Also in this family:
Alpine Catstail, 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, 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:
1 metre tall
Meadows, mountains, seaside, wetland.

Green, no petals
A solitary, unawned, green, egg-shaped spike with pointed glumes.
The fruit is a caryopsis which is a kind of dry, one-seeded fruit, typical of grasses.
Flat, linear leaves.
Other Names:
Magellan Meadow Foxtail.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Alopecurus magellanicus is a species of grass known by the common name Magellan meadow foxtail. It is native to southern South America, and specifically in Chile and Argentina . It is a herbaceous perennial plant that grows up to 1 meter high, the leaves are up to 15 cm long and 3-8 mm wide. The spikelets are on a dense panicle that is 8-30 cm long, and are light to dark brown in color. It typically grows in wet meadows, along the coast, and other damp habitats.


Alpine Foxtail, also known as Alopecurus magellanicus, is a species of grass that is native to the southern hemisphere, particularly to the Andes mountain range in South America. This grass is a hardy and adaptable plant that thrives in alpine environments, often found growing in high-altitude meadows, rocky slopes, and alongside streams.

One of the distinctive features of Alpine Foxtail is its appearance. It has dense, cylindrical inflorescences that resemble fox tails, hence its name. These inflorescences are covered in silky hairs, which give them a soft, fluffy appearance. The leaves of the Alpine Foxtail are also unique, with a bluish-green hue and a long, narrow shape.

Despite its beautiful appearance, Alpine Foxtail is not commonly used for ornamental purposes. However, it has many ecological and practical uses. For instance, this grass plays a critical role in maintaining the biodiversity of alpine ecosystems, as it provides food and habitat for many species of animals, including birds, rodents, and insects.

Moreover, Alpine Foxtail is also used for grazing, as it is a nutritious food source for livestock. Its high protein content and palatability make it an ideal forage for cattle, sheep, and other animals. In addition, Alpine Foxtail is a hardy plant that can withstand harsh winter conditions, making it an excellent choice for farmers and ranchers in colder regions.

Aside from its ecological and practical uses, Alpine Foxtail also has medicinal properties. Indigenous communities in the Andes have used this grass for centuries to treat a range of ailments, including digestive issues, headaches, and respiratory problems. Recent studies have shown that Alpine Foxtail contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may explain its medicinal benefits.

Alpine Foxtail is a cool-season grass, which means that it grows actively during the cooler months of the year and becomes dormant during the warmer months. This adaptation allows it to survive in high-altitude environments, where temperatures can drop below freezing for extended periods of time.

One of the key ecological benefits of Alpine Foxtail is that it helps to stabilize alpine soils. Its deep root system helps to anchor soil and prevent erosion, which is critical in the fragile alpine ecosystem. This grass is also highly tolerant of acidic soils, which is common in alpine regions, making it a valuable tool for soil stabilization and erosion control.

Alpine Foxtail is also a valuable resource for researchers and scientists studying climate change. As temperatures continue to rise globally, alpine ecosystems are among the most vulnerable to climate change. Studying the response of Alpine Foxtail to changing temperatures and precipitation patterns can provide insight into the potential impacts of climate change on these ecosystems and the species that depend on them.

In addition to its practical and ecological benefits, Alpine Foxtail also has cultural significance in some indigenous communities in South America. The Mapuche people of Chile, for instance, consider Alpine Foxtail to be a sacred plant and use it in traditional ceremonies and rituals.

Alpine Foxtail is also an important indicator species for alpine ecosystems. As a species that is highly adapted to alpine environments, it is particularly sensitive to changes in temperature, precipitation, and other environmental factors. As a result, scientists can use changes in Alpine Foxtail populations as an early warning signal for potential disruptions to alpine ecosystems caused by climate change or other disturbances.

Another important feature of Alpine Foxtail is its ability to sequester carbon. Like all plants, Alpine Foxtail absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis, but it has a particularly high capacity for storing carbon in its roots and soil. This ability to capture and store carbon makes Alpine Foxtail an important player in mitigating the effects of climate change, as it helps to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Alpine Foxtail is also an important source of genetic diversity. As a highly adaptable species, it has developed unique genetic traits that allow it to thrive in harsh alpine environments. Scientists are studying the genetic makeup of Alpine Foxtail to better understand how plants adapt to extreme environments and to identify genes that could be used to develop new crops or improve the resilience of existing crops.

Finally, Alpine Foxtail is an important component of alpine tourism. Many visitors are drawn to alpine regions for their natural beauty, and Alpine Foxtail is one of the many species that make these environments so unique and fascinating. Educating visitors about the importance of Alpine Foxtail and other alpine species can help to raise awareness of the need to protect these fragile ecosystems and the species that depend on them.

In conclusion, Alpine Foxtail is a remarkable grass with many ecological, practical, cultural, and scientific benefits. Its unique characteristics and adaptability make it an important resource that should be protected and studied to fully understand its potential benefits and uses. By recognizing the value of Alpine Foxtail and other alpine species, we can work to conserve these ecosystems and the species that depend on them for generations to come.