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Nit Grass

Gastridium ventricosum

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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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, 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:
40 centimetres tall
Fields, grassland, roadsides, seaside, wasteland.

Green, no petals
Yellowish-green flower spike. Spikelets are one-flowered. The glumes are swollen looking at their bases and are said to look like nits after which the grass is named. Unawned.
The fruit is a caryopsis which is a type of dry, one-seeded fruit.
The leaves are simple, flat and linear. Nit Grass is an annual grass with leaf blades approximately 5mm wide.
Other Names:
Nit-grass, Ventricose Gazania.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Gastridium ventricosum, also known as ventricose gazania, is a species of annual grass in the genus Gastridium. It is native to South Africa, but has been introduced to many other parts of the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and North America. It is a small, mat-forming grass that can grow to a height of only a few centimeters tall, but can spread to form a dense ground cover. It has narrow, green leaves and small inconspicuous flowers.

Gastridium ventricosum is considered as a weed in many areas, as it is invasive and can outcompete native plants, altering the composition of native ecosystems. It is often found in disturbed habitats, such as roadsides and wastelands, as well as in grassland and other agricultural areas. The plants have a high seed production rate and their seeds can be easily spread by wind, water and animals, making it hard to control and manage. The seeds can also remain viable in the soil for several years. It is important to monitor and control its spread to prevent its negative impact on native plant communities and ecosystems.


Nit grass (Gastridium ventricosum) is a type of annual grass that is commonly found in temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. Despite its small size and unassuming appearance, nit grass plays an important role in maintaining the health of its ecosystem.

Physical Characteristics

Nit grass typically grows to be between 5 and 40 cm tall, with thin, wiry stems that are either upright or sprawled out along the ground. The leaves of nit grass are flat and narrow, and they tend to be a blue-green color. The plant's seed heads are small and compact, and they are usually held close to the ground. Nit grass is an annual plant, meaning that it completes its life cycle within a single growing season.

Ecological Importance

Nit grass is often found growing in disturbed areas, such as along roadsides, in fields that have been recently plowed, and in abandoned lots. While some people may view it as a nuisance, nit grass actually plays an important role in stabilizing the soil in these areas. The plant's roots help to hold the soil in place, which can prevent erosion and runoff. Nit grass is also able to grow in poor quality soil, making it an important pioneer species in areas that have been stripped of their topsoil.

In addition to its soil-stabilizing abilities, nit grass also provides habitat and food for a variety of insects and small animals. The plant's seed heads are a source of food for many seed-eating birds, such as sparrows and finches. Nit grass is also host to a variety of insect species, including grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles.

Cultural Significance

While nit grass may not have any significant cultural or economic value, it is still an important part of many ecosystems. In fact, its ability to grow in disturbed areas makes it a valuable tool for land restoration and erosion control. By stabilizing the soil and providing habitat for other species, nit grass helps to promote the health and resilience of the ecosystems in which it grows.

More Information about Nit Grass

Nit grass may be small and unassuming, but it plays an important role in maintaining the health and stability of many ecosystems. From providing habitat for insects and birds to stabilizing soil in disturbed areas, this little grass has a big impact. By understanding and appreciating the ecological value of nit grass, we can better appreciate the importance of all the small, seemingly insignificant species that make up our planet's rich biodiversity.

Nit grass, like many other plants, is also a source of medicinal and nutritional benefits. Some Native American tribes used the plant to treat various ailments, such as stomach pains and sore throats. Additionally, the seeds of nit grass are edible and can be ground into flour to make bread or added to soups and stews.

Despite its benefits, nit grass can sometimes become invasive and outcompete other native plant species. This can have negative impacts on the ecosystem and the organisms that rely on those native plants for food and habitat. Land managers may need to take measures to control the growth of nit grass in areas where it becomes too abundant.

In addition to its ecological and cultural significance, nit grass also has some interesting adaptations that enable it to survive in harsh environments. For example, nit grass has the ability to tolerate drought and can continue to grow even in arid conditions. This is due in part to its ability to close its stomata (pores on the surface of leaves) during times of water scarcity, which helps to conserve water within the plant.

Nit grass also has a unique strategy for dispersing its seeds. Rather than relying solely on wind or animals to spread its seeds, nit grass is able to shoot its seeds out of its seed heads with explosive force. This mechanism, known as ballistic dispersal, allows the seeds to travel a short distance away from the parent plant, which can help to reduce competition for resources and increase the likelihood of successful germination.

Another interesting aspect of nit grass is its ability to accumulate nitrogen in its tissues. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant growth and development, but it can often be limiting in many ecosystems. Nit grass is able to take up nitrogen from the soil and incorporate it into its tissues, which can make it an important source of nitrogen for other plant species in the ecosystem. This process, known as nitrogen fixation, is carried out by symbiotic bacteria that live within the roots of the plant.

In addition to its ecological and nutritional benefits, nit grass has also been used for a variety of industrial purposes. For example, the plant's fibers can be used to make paper, and its seeds can be used to make oil for cooking or lubrication. Nit grass has even been studied as a potential source of biofuels, due to its ability to grow in poor quality soil and its high biomass production.

Overall, nit grass is a versatile and important species that has played an important role in human history and continues to have ecological, cultural, and economic significance today. By understanding and appreciating the value of this and other plant species, we can work to ensure that these valuable resources are protected and conserved for future generations.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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