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Fern Grass

Catapodium rigidum

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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, 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:
60 centimetres tall
Beaches, grassland, rocky places, saltmarshes, sand dunes, seaside, walls, wasteland.

Green, no petals
A panicle (flower spike) of narrow, green, stalked spikelets. Similar to Sea Fern Grass (Catapodium marinum) but the spike is more open.
The fruit is dry and one-seeded. The technical name for the fruit is a caryopsis.
An annual grass with a stiff appearance. The narrow, hairless, green leaves are often purplish. The ligules are short and blunt.
Other Names:
Rigid Catapodium.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Catapodium rigidum, also known as rigid catapodium, is a species of perennial grass in the genus Catapodium. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North America and commonly found in wet, coastal habitats such as salt marshes, sandy beaches, and dunes. It forms dense clumps of narrow, dark green leaves and can grow to a height of up to 0.6 meters tall. The plant produces spikes of small, greenish-brown flowers in the summer.

Rigid Catapodium is a valuable plant for coastal habitat restoration as it is tolerant to salt, can colonize and stabilize sandy and saline soils, and provides valuable habitat for wildlife. it's also suitable for landscaping, and ornamental horticulture, particularly in coastal regions where it can provide a unique and attractive groundcover. However, it should be managed carefully, as it can become invasive in some regions and outcompete native plants, especially in habitats where it is not native.


Fern Grass (Catapodium rigidum) is a plant species that belongs to the family Poaceae, commonly known as the grass family. It is a native plant of Europe and is found in various parts of the continent, including the United Kingdom. The plant is also known by several other names, including Hard Grass, Tough Grass, and Sheep's Fescue.

Fern Grass is a perennial plant that grows up to 60cm in height. It has a tufted growth habit, with leaves that are narrow and pointed, and can grow up to 20cm long. The leaves are a bluish-green color and have a slightly rough texture. The flowers of Fern Grass are arranged in a spike-like inflorescence, with each spike containing several small, brownish flowers.

One of the distinctive features of Fern Grass is its adaptability to a wide range of soil conditions. It can grow in both acidic and alkaline soils, and is often found in dry, sandy areas. It is also tolerant of drought and can survive in areas with low water availability.

Fern Grass has a variety of uses, both ornamental and practical. In landscaping, it is often used as a ground cover, particularly in dry and sunny areas where other plants may struggle to grow. Its drought tolerance and adaptability make it a popular choice for xeriscaping, which is the practice of landscaping with drought-resistant plants.

Fern Grass is also commonly used as a forage crop for livestock, particularly in areas with poor soil quality. Its tough leaves and stems make it resistant to grazing, and it can provide a valuable food source for sheep and other grazing animals.

In addition to its practical uses, Fern Grass has a number of traditional medicinal uses. It has been used as a treatment for urinary tract infections and to relieve inflammation and pain. Some traditional herbal remedies also use Fern Grass as a treatment for asthma and other respiratory ailments.

Fern Grass is a hardy and versatile plant that has a variety of practical and ornamental uses. Its adaptability and resilience make it a popular choice for landscaping and forage, while its traditional medicinal uses highlight its potential value as a natural remedy.

Fern Grass is a plant species that is not only useful but also aesthetically pleasing. Its narrow, pointed leaves and spike-like inflorescences can add an interesting texture and color to a garden or landscaping design.

Fern Grass is also a low-maintenance plant, which makes it an ideal choice for those who want to add greenery to their outdoor space without dedicating a lot of time to upkeep. It requires minimal watering and can thrive in a variety of soil types, making it an easy plant to care for.

Another interesting aspect of Fern Grass is its ability to self-seed. This means that, once established, it can spread on its own and create new patches of growth. This can be an advantage for those who want to propagate the plant or fill in gaps in their landscaping design.

While Fern Grass is generally a hardy and low-maintenance plant, it can still be susceptible to pests and diseases. For example, the plant can be vulnerable to aphids, which are small insects that can feed on the sap of the plant and cause damage. To prevent this, regular inspections of the plant and prompt action to address any infestations are recommended.

Fern Grass (Catapodium rigidum) is a versatile and resilient plant species that has a variety of practical and ornamental uses. Its adaptability, low-maintenance nature, and aesthetic appeal make it a popular choice for landscaping and forage. Whether used as a ground cover or a source of traditional medicine, Fern Grass is a plant species that is both useful and beautiful.

Fern Grass also plays an important role in the ecology of the areas where it is found. It is often found in sandy or disturbed areas, and its extensive root system helps to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. In addition, the plant's ability to survive in dry conditions makes it an important component of many ecosystems, particularly in areas with limited water availability.

Fern Grass is also an important food source for many species of insects and small mammals, such as rabbits and voles. It provides habitat and shelter for these animals and helps to support the broader food web of the ecosystem.

Furthermore, Fern Grass has a long history of use in traditional medicine. It has been used to treat a variety of ailments, such as urinary tract infections, respiratory ailments, and digestive issues. While more research is needed to fully understand the potential medicinal benefits of Fern Grass, its traditional use highlights the potential value of this plant species in natural medicine.

Overall, Fern Grass is a plant species that is not only beautiful and useful but also plays an important ecological role. Its adaptability, hardiness, and traditional medicinal uses make it a plant species worth considering for both landscaping and conservation efforts.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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