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Sand Catstail

Phleum arenarium

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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 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:
35 centimetres tall
Beaches, grassland, heathland, sand dunes, seaside.

Green, no petals
Green flower spike, fading to yellow later in the season. Maximum length of the flower spike is 5cm.
The fruits of grasses are known as caryopses. They are a type of dry, one-seeded fruit.
Flat, linear leaves. Blunt ligules.
Other Names:
Beach-grass, Beach-reed, Sand Timothy, Sand-reed.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


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


Sand Catstail (Phleum arenarium) is a species of grass that belongs to the Poaceae family. It is commonly known as “sand-reed”, “beach-reed” or “beach-grass” and is native to temperate and Arctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America.

The sand catstail is an important part of coastal sand dune ecosystems, playing a crucial role in preventing sand erosion and helping to stabilize the dune system. Its deep roots help to anchor the sand, reducing the risk of sand loss during high winds and heavy rain. Additionally, its dense growth pattern provides a physical barrier against wind-driven sand, helping to keep sand in place and protect the dune system.

Sand catstail is a herbaceous perennial plant that can grow up to 2 feet tall. Its leaves are long and narrow with a distinctive, feathery appearance. In the summer, the plant produces spikes of tiny flowers that are usually pink, purple or brown in color. These flowers are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also provide important food and habitat for a variety of wildlife species.

Despite its importance in coastal ecosystems, sand catstail is vulnerable to habitat destruction and human activity. Coastal development, recreation, and vehicle traffic can all have negative impacts on the plant and its habitat, reducing its numbers and altering the delicate balance of the dune system.

Fortunately, there are measures that can be taken to protect sand catstail and the coastal ecosystems it supports. Land managers can work to minimize human disturbance in sensitive areas, reducing the risk of damage to the plant and its habitat. Additionally, planting sand catstail and other native vegetation in areas where it has been lost can help to restore the natural balance of the dune system.

Sand Catstail (Phleum arenarium) is an important and valuable species that plays a critical role in protecting coastal ecosystems and preventing sand erosion. By taking steps to protect and conserve this plant and its habitat, we can help to preserve these delicate ecosystems for future generations to enjoy.

In terms of maintenance and care, sand catstail is relatively low maintenance and easy to care for. It is adaptable to a variety of soil types, including sandy and loamy soils, and prefers full sun to partial shade. It is also drought tolerant, making it an ideal choice for areas with limited water resources.

However, sand catstail does face some challenges and threats, including competition from invasive species and the effects of climate change. Coastal areas are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise and increased storm frequency, which can damage the plant's habitat and disrupt its growth. Additionally, some invasive plant species can outcompete sand catstail, reducing its numbers and altering the delicate balance of the dune system.

To mitigate these threats, it is important to promote responsible land management practices that conserve coastal ecosystems and protect the habitat of sand catstail and other native species. This may include controlling invasive plant species, restoring degraded habitats, and implementing strategies to reduce the impacts of climate change on coastal ecosystems.

In conclusion, sand catstail (Phleum arenarium) is an important species for coastal ecosystems and a valuable addition to any garden or landscape. With proper care and management, it can provide a variety of benefits, from reducing sand erosion to providing habitat for wildlife and supporting the local ecosystem. So, if you're interested in promoting conservation and sustainability, consider planting sand catstail in your own backyard!

It's also worth noting that sand catstail has a number of potential uses beyond its role in protecting coastal ecosystems. For example, it is often used for erosion control on dunes, embankments, and other areas prone to soil erosion. Its strong, fibrous roots help to hold the soil in place and prevent it from being washed away by rain or wind.

In addition, sand catstail has been used for centuries as a source of food and forage for livestock. Its seed heads are a valuable source of nutrition for wildlife, including birds and small mammals, while its leaves can be used as hay or straw for livestock.

In horticulture, sand catstail is valued for its attractive appearance and its adaptability to a range of growing conditions. Its feathery leaves and spikes of tiny flowers make it an attractive addition to any garden or landscaping project, while its tolerance of a variety of soils and light conditions make it a versatile choice for many different types of gardens.

So, whether you're interested in protecting coastal ecosystems, supporting wildlife, or just want to add some interest to your garden or landscape, sand catstail (Phleum arenarium) is a valuable and versatile species that is well worth considering.

In conclusion, sand catstail (Phleum arenarium) is an important species that plays a crucial role in maintaining the balance of coastal ecosystems, as well as being an attractive and versatile addition to any garden or landscape. With proper care and management, this grass species can provide a wide range of benefits and help to promote conservation and sustainability in our coastal regions.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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