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Alpine Catstail

Phleum alpinum

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Poaceae (Grass)
Also in this family:
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, 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:
70 centimetres tall
Cliffs, grassland, meadows, mountains, rocky places, wetland.

Purple, no petals
A bluish to purplish-brown, egg-shaped spike, up to 6cm long. Short-awned, blunt glumes. The lemmas are unawned.
The fruit is a caryopsis. A caryopsis is a type of dry, one-seeded fruit.
A tufted perennial grass with short, broad, hairless leaves.
Other Names:
Alpine Timothy, Mountain Timothy.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Phleum alpinum, also known as alpine timothy or alpine cat's tail, is a species of grass in the Poaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia, and is widely distributed in mountainous regions. The plant is known for its narrow, cylindrical flower heads and hairy leaves. It grows well in a variety of habitats, including meadows, grasslands, and alpine regions. Phleum alpinum is a herbaceous plant that can grow up to 80 cm in height. It is commonly found in grasslands and meadows, and is often used as forage for livestock. The plant is also used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments.


Alpine Catstail (Phleum alpinum) is a type of grass that grows in high altitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a hardy plant that is able to withstand harsh climates and is often found in alpine and subalpine meadows. This plant is a popular choice for landscaping and gardening due to its unique appearance and ease of care.

The Alpine Catstail is a perenniel plant, meaning that it comes back year after year and can grow up to 70 cm in height. Its leaves are narrow and long, while its spikes are stiff and compact, giving it a distinct and eye-catching appearance. The spikes of this plant can grow up to 20 cm long, and they are topped with small clusters of flowers that are brown or purple in color.

In addition to its unique appearance, the Alpine Catstail is also known for its ecological importance. It is an important source of food for many different species of wildlife, including birds, insects, and small mammals. It also provides habitat for a variety of species, and helps to prevent soil erosion in alpine and subalpine areas.

Despite its hardiness and resilience, the Alpine Catstail is not immune to the effects of climate change. In recent years, warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns have led to declines in the populations of this plant in some areas. As a result, it is important to take measures to protect and conserve this species, so that future generations can enjoy its beauty and ecological importance.

If you are interested in growing the Alpine Catstail in your garden, it is a low-maintenance plant that is easy to care for. It prefers full sun to partial shade, and well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. It is also drought-tolerant and can be grown in containers or in a rock garden.

Aside from its ornamental and ecological value, the Alpine Catstail has also been used for various traditional and medicinal purposes. In some cultures, the leaves and spikes of this plant were dried and used as bedding material, or woven into baskets and mats. The plant was also used to treat various ailments such as colds, headaches, and respiratory problems.

In modern times, the Alpine Catstail has been used as a source of forage for livestock. Its leaves and spikes are rich in nutrients and provide a valuable food source for animals, especially during the winter months when other food sources are scarce.

Another important aspect of the Alpine Catstail is its role in the study of climate change. The distribution and abundance of this plant can provide important information about the effects of climate change on alpine and subalpine ecosystems. By monitoring changes in the populations of this species, researchers can gain insight into the impact of climate change on the environment, and develop strategies to mitigate its effects.

The Alpine Catstail is a versatile and valuable plant that is essential for the health of alpine and subalpine ecosystems. Its ornamental value, medicinal and traditional uses, and ecological and scientific importance make it a valuable and interesting species that deserves to be protected and appreciated. Whether you are a gardener, a scientist, or simply someone who loves the beauty of nature, the Alpine Catstail is sure to captivate and inspire you.

Additionally, the Alpine Catstail has unique adaptations that allow it to survive in its high-altitude habitat. The plant has a deep root system that helps it anchor itself in the soil, as well as access to water and nutrients from deep below the surface. It also has a compact growth habit, which helps to reduce its exposure to harsh winds and cold temperatures.

Another interesting aspect of the Alpine Catstail is its relationship with other plants and animals in its habitat. This plant is often found growing in meadows along with other species of grasses and wildflowers, creating a diverse and vibrant ecosystem. These meadows are also important habitat for a variety of wildlife, including insects, birds, and small mammals, making the Alpine Catstail an integral part of a complex and interdependent community.

In conclusion, the Alpine Catstail is a remarkable plant that is perfectly adapted to its high-altitude habitat. Its unique adaptations, diverse relationships with other plants and animals, and ornamental and ecological value make it an important species to study and appreciate. If you are lucky enough to see this plant in its natural habitat, or grow it in your own garden, take a moment to appreciate its beauty and the important role it plays in the ecosystem.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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