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Early Hair-grass

Aira praecox

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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 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:
40 centimetres tall
Beaches, cliffs, gardens, grassland, heathland, rocky places, sand dunes, walls.

Green, no petals
Spikelets are green and tinged purple. The spikes are concealed by silvery sheaths.
The fruit is dry and one-seeded. The seeds of grasses are technically known as caryopses.
A tuft-forming annual grass with bristle-like, greyish-green leaves and very short ligules (3mm).
Other Names:
Spike Hairgrass, Yellow Hairgrass.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Aira praecox, also known as Early Hairgrass or Early Hair-grass, is a species of grass in the Poaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia and is found in various habitats such as grasslands, heaths, and coastal dunes. It is a small, perennial grass that forms dense tussocks or clumps and can grow up to 40 cm tall. The leaves are fine and bright green, and the flowers are formed in thin, dense spikes that are greenish-white in color, and appear in late spring to early summer. The species is considered as a colonizer of bare soils, and it can be found in disturbed and nutrient-poor soils. This grass species is not commonly used in ornamental gardening or landscaping, but it is used as a forage grass for livestock and wildlife.


Early Hair-grass, or Aira praecox, is a cool-season grass that is native to Europe and can be found growing in various habitats such as meadows, pastures, and open woodlands. It is a small, delicate grass with thin, hair-like leaves and small, inconspicuous flowers.

One of the defining characteristics of Early Hair-grass is its early emergence in the spring, hence its name. It is one of the first grasses to start growing in the year, and can often be seen poking up through the snow in late winter. This makes it an important food source for grazing animals, such as sheep and cows, that may not have much else to eat at this time of year.

Early Hair-grass is also an important plant for soil stabilization, especially in areas that are prone to erosion. Its dense mat of roots helps to hold the soil in place, preventing it from being washed away during heavy rains or winds.

While Early Hair-grass is not typically grown as a lawn grass, it can be used as a groundcover in areas that are difficult to mow or where a more naturalistic look is desired. It is also used in wildflower meadows, where it can provide a subtle backdrop for more showy flowering plants.

In terms of maintenance, Early Hair-grass is a low-maintenance plant that requires little watering or fertilization once established. It prefers well-drained soils and can tolerate some drought, but may not do well in heavy clay soils or areas with standing water.

Early Hair-grass is a valuable plant for both wildlife and soil conservation, as well as for its aesthetic qualities. Its early emergence and delicate appearance make it a welcome sight in the springtime, and its ability to stabilize soils and provide habitat for wildlife make it an important component of many ecosystems.

Early Hair-grass has been used for various purposes throughout history. In some cultures, it was used to make brooms and brushes, while in others it was used as a medicinal herb to treat various ailments such as headaches and stomach problems.

Today, Early Hair-grass is still used for some of these purposes, but its most important role is as a key component of grassland ecosystems. It provides food and habitat for a variety of animals, including insects, small mammals, and birds. Some butterfly species, such as the Grizzled Skipper, rely on Early Hair-grass as a larval food plant.

In addition to its ecological importance, Early Hair-grass has also been the subject of scientific research. One study found that it is able to remove heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, from contaminated soils. This ability to clean up polluted sites makes it a valuable plant for phytoremediation projects.

Another study found that Early Hair-grass can be used to measure the effects of climate change on grassland ecosystems. By monitoring changes in the timing of its emergence and growth, researchers can gain insights into how climate change is affecting these ecosystems and the animals that depend on them.

Early Hair-grass is a member of the grass family, Poaceae, which is one of the most important plant families in the world. Grasses provide food for humans and animals, help to stabilize soils, and play a key role in regulating the Earth's climate.

One interesting feature of Early Hair-grass is its ability to photosynthesize at low temperatures. This means that it is able to start growing earlier in the year than many other plants, and can continue to grow later into the fall as well. This extended growing season can be an advantage in environments where the growing season is short, such as alpine or arctic tundra.

Early Hair-grass can also be used as a cover crop in agriculture. Cover crops are planted to protect the soil and improve soil health between cash crops. They can help to prevent erosion, suppress weeds, and improve soil fertility. Early Hair-grass is a good choice for this purpose because of its ability to grow in cool weather and its ability to stabilize soils.

In addition to its ecological and agricultural uses, Early Hair-grass has also been used in traditional medicine. It has been used as a diuretic, a laxative, and a treatment for rheumatism and gout. However, more research is needed to fully understand its medicinal properties and potential side effects.

Overall, Early Hair-grass is a fascinating and important plant with a wide range of uses and benefits. Its ability to grow in cool weather, stabilize soils, and provide food and habitat for wildlife make it a valuable addition to many ecosystems. Whether you encounter it in a meadow, a pasture, or a garden, take a moment to appreciate this small but mighty grass and all that it has to offer.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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