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Tor Grass

Brachypodium rupestre

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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 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, 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:
50 centimetres tall
Cliffs, gardens, grassland, roadsides, rocky places, scrub.

Green, no petals
A tall, erect spike which consists of long, stalked spikelets with short awns.
The fruit is a caryopsis. This is a type of dry, one-seeded fruit common to all grasses.
Yellowish-green leaves, frequently inrolled. The sheaths are not normally hairy. Usually found in lime grassland habitats.
Other Names:
Chalk False-brome, False Brome, Mountain False Brome, Rock Brachypodium, Rock False Brome, Rockgrass.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Brachypodium rupestre, also known as Rock False Brome or Rock Brome, is a species of perennial grass in the genus Brachypodium. It is native to Europe and Asia and is commonly found in rocky or gravelly habitats such as cliffs, talus slopes, and rock outcrops. It forms dense clumps of narrow leaves and can grow to a height of up to 0.5 meter tall. The plant produces spikes of small, greenish-brown flowers in the summer.

Brachypodium rupestre is a xerophytic species and it's well adapted to grow in poor and dry soils, it's drought tolerant and can grow in full sun or partial shade. This species is considered a good indicator of rocky habitats, often found in association with other species adapted to grow in harsh conditions. It is also considered a good ornamental grass and it is suitable for rock gardens, rock walls, and dryland landscaping. It can be used to stabilize and protect cliffs and rocky slopes, especially in dry or Mediterranean climates.


Tor grass, scientifically known as Brachypodium rupestre, is a perennial grass species that is native to Europe, North Africa, and parts of Asia. It is also known by other common names, including rock brachypodium, rockgrass, and mountain false brome. Tor grass is a highly adaptable plant that can thrive in a variety of conditions, including rocky soils and steep slopes.

Physical Characteristics

Tor grass has a tufted growth habit and typically reaches a height of around 30-50cm (12-20 inches). It has a deep root system that allows it to access moisture and nutrients from deep within the soil. The leaves of the plant are narrow and long, measuring up to 30cm (12 inches) in length, and are usually green or bluish-green in color. The flowers of the plant grow in dense clusters at the top of the stem and are usually pale yellow in color.

Ecological Importance

Tor grass is an important species in many natural ecosystems, including rocky habitats, mountain meadows, and alpine tundra. It is often found growing in areas with thin, nutrient-poor soils, where it plays an important role in preventing erosion and stabilizing slopes. The deep root system of tor grass helps to anchor the soil and prevent it from washing away during heavy rain or strong winds.

In addition to its ecological importance, tor grass also has several practical uses. It is commonly used as forage for livestock, and its deep root system makes it an excellent plant for erosion control in disturbed or degraded landscapes. Tor grass is also used in traditional medicine for a variety of ailments, including fever, stomach problems, and respiratory issues.


Tor grass is relatively easy to cultivate and is well-suited to a range of growing conditions. It can be grown from seed or propagated through division of established plants. The plant prefers well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. Once established, tor grass is relatively low-maintenance and requires little watering or fertilization.

More Information

Tor grass is a fascinating and important plant species that plays a vital role in many natural ecosystems. Its deep root system, adaptability, and practical uses make it a valuable addition to any garden or landscape. Whether you are interested in ecological restoration, erosion control, or traditional medicine, tor grass is definitely a species worth considering.

Tor grass, also known as Brachypodium rupestre, is a member of the grass family Poaceae. It is a cool-season grass that is adapted to a range of environments, including montane, alpine, and subalpine habitats. It is known for its hardiness and resilience, as it can survive in harsh conditions where other plant species may struggle to grow.

One of the unique characteristics of tor grass is its ability to grow on rocky, nutrient-poor soils. This is due in part to its deep root system, which allows it to access nutrients and water from deeper layers of soil. In addition, tor grass has evolved adaptations that allow it to tolerate low-nutrient conditions, such as the ability to efficiently use nitrogen and phosphorus.

Tor grass has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for a variety of ailments. The plant contains several bioactive compounds, including alkaloids, flavonoids, and saponins, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, and analgesic properties. Some studies have also suggested that tor grass may have potential as an antitumor agent.

In addition to its medicinal uses, tor grass is also used as forage for livestock. It is high in fiber and protein, making it a nutritious feed source for grazing animals. Its hardiness and resilience also make it a useful plant for erosion control and land restoration projects.

Tor grass is a valuable species in many natural ecosystems, where it plays an important role in stabilizing soils, preventing erosion, and providing habitat for a variety of wildlife. It is also an interesting and attractive plant that can be grown in gardens and landscapes. With its adaptability, hardiness, and practical uses, tor grass is a species that is worthy of further study and appreciation.

Tor grass, or Brachypodium rupestre, has several interesting adaptations that allow it to survive in harsh environments. One of these adaptations is its ability to tolerate low temperatures. Tor grass is a cool-season grass that is adapted to cold climates, and can even survive in areas where the ground is permanently frozen, such as in the Arctic tundra.

Another adaptation of tor grass is its ability to tolerate drought. The plant is able to survive long periods of water scarcity by reducing its growth rate and conserving water. This is achieved through a variety of mechanisms, including the closure of stomata on the leaves to reduce water loss through transpiration.

Tor grass also has a unique relationship with mycorrhizal fungi, which are symbiotic microorganisms that live in association with plant roots. The fungi provide the plant with nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, in exchange for carbohydrates produced by the plant through photosynthesis. In the case of tor grass, the plant has been shown to form a highly specialized mycorrhizal relationship with a specific group of fungi that are adapted to low-nutrient soils.

Tor grass has a number of ecological benefits, including its role in stabilizing soils, preventing erosion, and providing habitat for wildlife. The plant is also a valuable source of forage for livestock, and has potential as a biofuel feedstock due to its high cellulose content.

Despite its many benefits, tor grass can also be invasive in some areas. In parts of the United States, for example, tor grass has become a problematic invasive species in natural grasslands and prairies. In these cases, efforts are underway to control the spread of the plant and restore native grassland habitats.

Overall, tor grass is a fascinating and versatile plant species that has many ecological, practical, and medicinal uses. Its adaptations to harsh environments, unique mycorrhizal relationships, and ability to grow in nutrient-poor soils make it a valuable plant for a range of applications. However, its invasive potential in some areas highlights the importance of careful management and monitoring of this species.


Tor Grass filmed at Leckhampton Hill in Gloucestershire on the 29th June 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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