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Mat-grass Fescue

Vulpia unilateralis

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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, 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:
25 centimetres tall
Gardens, grassland, meadows, walls, wasteland.

Green, no petals
A compact flower spike which consists of stalked, short-awned spikelets.
The fruit is a narrowly oval-shaped caryopsis. A caryopsis is a kind of dry, one-seeded fruit.
Leaf blades (up to 5mm wide) are slightly hairy above and hairless below. Usually found in chalk grassland.
Other Names:
One-sided Fescue.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Vulpia unilateralis, also known as one-sided fescue, is a small annual grass that is native to the Mediterranean region, but it is also found in other parts of Europe and Asia. This grass prefers to grow in dry, rocky or sandy soils, it can be found in coastal areas, in steppes, and in meadows.

Vulpia unilateralis is a low growing grass, usually reaching about 2-6 inches tall. The leaves are narrow and linear, generally arranged in only one plane, giving the plant a flattened appearance, hence the common name “one-sided fescue”. The flowers are arranged in a spike-like inflorescence, which may be short or long, and are usually green or brownish-green in color.

It is not considered as a desirable or attractive grass, but it can be grown in gardens, as a ground cover or an ornamental grass, but it is not commonly used as an ornamental grass in landscaping. It is also not commonly used as a forage grass. It is often considered a weed and it is not considered as threatened species. It is not commonly available commercially.


Mat-grass Fescue, also known as Vulpia unilateralis, is a cool-season grass species that belongs to the Poaceae family. This grass species is native to Europe and Asia but has been introduced to various parts of North America, Australia, and New Zealand. It is a versatile grass species that can grow in a wide range of soil types and is commonly used for erosion control, restoration projects, and in pasture and range management.

Mat-grass Fescue is a low-growing grass species, with a height ranging from 5 to 25 centimeters. Its leaves are slender and taper to a point, with a characteristic green-blue color. The grass species produces tiny flowers on spikelets that are arranged on one side of the stem. These spikelets are often drooping, giving the grass its unique appearance.

One of the most distinctive features of Mat-grass Fescue is its ability to grow in dry and nutrient-poor soils. The grass species has a deep and extensive root system that allows it to access water and nutrients from the lower layers of the soil. This makes it an ideal species for erosion control in areas with shallow soil, steep slopes, and rocky terrain.

Mat-grass Fescue is also an excellent species for restoration projects in disturbed areas. It is often used to restore degraded grasslands, as it is able to establish quickly and efficiently in areas where other species struggle to grow. The grass species is also used in pasture and range management, as it provides a valuable forage for livestock.

In addition to its practical uses, Mat-grass Fescue also has ecological value. It provides habitat and food for a variety of wildlife, including small mammals and birds. The grass species is also known to reduce the soil surface temperature, which helps to prevent the loss of moisture and reduce the risk of wildfires.

Mat-grass Fescue is a species that has been found to be particularly useful in the restoration of degraded ecosystems. This is because it is able to establish itself quickly, which helps to prevent soil erosion and to stabilize the soil. Additionally, it is able to thrive in conditions that are not optimal for many other plant species, which means that it can be used to restore areas that are particularly difficult to grow plants in.

One of the key reasons that Mat-grass Fescue is so well-suited to restoration projects is because it is a self-sowing species. This means that it is able to reproduce and spread on its own, without the need for any additional planting. This is particularly useful in areas where access is difficult, as it reduces the need for human intervention.

In addition to its practical benefits, Mat-grass Fescue is also a species that is of interest to researchers. This is because it is able to grow in conditions that are not favorable for other plant species. As a result, it is often used as a model species for research into plant adaptation and the effects of climate change.

It is worth noting that while Mat-grass Fescue is a useful species, it is not suitable for all situations. For example, it is not recommended for use in areas where there is a risk of it spreading into natural habitats and becoming invasive. Additionally, it is not well-suited to areas that receive a lot of rainfall, as it prefers drier conditions.

Mat-grass Fescue is also known for its ability to sequester carbon in the soil. This is because it has a deep and extensive root system that is able to penetrate deep into the soil, and therefore it is able to store more carbon than other grass species. As a result, it has been suggested that Mat-grass Fescue could be used as a tool to combat climate change, as it is able to store carbon in the soil for long periods of time.

Furthermore, Mat-grass Fescue is a species that is often used in agroforestry systems. Agroforestry is a land management system that involves the integration of trees, crops, and livestock. The use of Mat-grass Fescue in agroforestry systems is beneficial because it is able to grow in the understory of trees, which helps to reduce soil erosion and to improve soil health.

Mat-grass Fescue is also a species that is of interest to those involved in habitat restoration. It is often used in areas where there has been damage to the natural habitat, as it is able to establish itself quickly and to provide a valuable food source for wildlife. In addition to this, the deep and extensive root system of Mat-grass Fescue is able to help prevent soil erosion, which is a common problem in areas where there has been habitat destruction.

Finally, Mat-grass Fescue is also a species that is of cultural significance. In some parts of the world, it is used in traditional medicine, and it has been found to have a range of medicinal properties. Additionally, the grass species has been used in cultural practices and ceremonies, and it is seen as a symbol of resilience and strength.

Overall, Mat-grass Fescue is a versatile and hardy grass species that has many practical, ecological, and cultural benefits. Its ability to grow in harsh environments, self-sow, sequester carbon, and provide a valuable forage for livestock and food source for wildlife make it an attractive option for a wide range of situations. Whether you are involved in erosion control, restoration projects, range management, agroforestry, or habitat restoration, Mat-grass Fescue is definitely a species worth considering.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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