Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Vulpia myuros
(annual fescue)



Vulpia myuros (annual fescue)


  • Last modified
  • 20 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Vulpia myuros
  • Preferred Common Name
  • annual fescue
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Vulpia myuros is an annual grass, native to much of Europe and parts of Asia, introduced to the USA, Australia and a number of other countries, and reported as invasive in Australia, the western USA and parts o...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Vulpia myuros (L.) C.C. Gmel.

Preferred Common Name

  • annual fescue

Other Scientific Names

  • Distomischus myuros (L.) Dulac
  • Distomomischus myuros (L.) Dulac
  • Festuca linearis Gilib.
  • Festuca major f. exserens Peterm.
  • Festuca major f. racemifera Peterm.
  • Festuca megalura Nutt.
  • Festuca myuros L.
  • Festuca pseudomyuros Soy.-Will.
  • Vulpia bromoides var. rigida Nees
  • Vulpia crinita Lojac.
  • Vulpia major (Röhl.) Á.Löve & D.Löve
  • Vulpia megalura (Nutt.) Rydb.
  • Vulpia pseudomyuros (Soy.-Will.) Rchb.
  • Vulpia reclinata Dumort.

International Common Names

  • English: foxtail fescue; rattail fescue; rattail sixweeks grass; silver grass

Local Common Names

  • : shu mao
  • Austria: Langbaardswenkgras
  • Brazil: festuca-rabo-de-rato; vulpia-rabo-de-rato
  • Denmark: Stor væselhale
  • Latvia: Peliauodege vulpija
  • Lithuania: pelastu vulpija
  • Norway: Musesvingel
  • South Africa: Wildegars
  • Sweden: Råttsvingel

Summary of Invasiveness

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Vulpia myuros is an annual grass, native to much of Europe and parts of Asia, introduced to the USA, Australia and a number of other countries, and reported as invasive in Australia, the western USA and parts of the Pacific. It outcompetes native species in grasslands of the western US and is a significant agricultural weed. It forms dense swards and its shallow roots suppress growth of native grasses and forbs. Establishment of native plants is strongly hindered once it has become dominant; because it is a winter-annual, it grows rapidly in early spring, thus successfully competing with the slower-growing native perennial grasses. It is a problem weed in pastures and in direct-seed cropping systems. Infested hay can cause injury to livestock due to the sharp seeds. Seeds easily attach to animals and cause losses in the wool industry. Residues of degrading Vulpia plants affect growth of other species including crops.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Cyperales
  •                         Family: Poaceae
  •                             Genus: Vulpia
  •                                 Species: Vulpia myuros

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Some taxonomists recognize two varieties: Vulpia myuros (L.) C. Gmel. var. hirsuta (Hackel) Asch. & Graebner, and Vulpia myuros (L.) C. Gmel. var. myuros. The Plant List (2013) lists further varieties and subspecies.

In older treatments, the species is included in the genus Festuca. However, the genus Vulpia is distinguished from Festuca by its annual life form and non-opening, self-pollinating (cleistogamous) flowers (Lonard and Gould, 1974; Darbyshire and Warwick, 1992). Older taxonomic treatments also describe V. megalura and V. myuros as separate species, with V. megalura native to North America and V. myuros native to Eurasia (Jepson, 1925; Munz and Keck, 1959). More recent work classifies the two entities as synonyms for a single species that is nonnative to North America (Lonard and Gould, 1974; Hickman, 1993).


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V. myuros is an annual grass of variable size. Culms are erect, slender, tufted or solitary, 5–75 cm tall, mostly glabrous. Leaf blades are finely pointed, 1-14 cm long, 0.5-3 mm wide, with 5-7 pubescent veins on the upper surface. The leaf sheath is split, glabrous or with few hairs. Inflorescences are dense, 5-35 cm long, green-purple in colour. The base of an inflorescence is often enclosed in the sheath of the uppermost leaf. Spikelets on stalks of <1 mm length. Spikelets 5-12 mm long, lower glume up to 1.5 mm long, upper glume 2.5-5.5 mm long. Spikelets have 3-6 florets. Lemmas are 4.5-6.5 mm long, and have awns of 5-15 mm length. Fruits are 3.5-4.5 mm long. (Wallace, 1997; Hickman, 1993).


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The native range of V. myuros is Eurasian and has certainly been enlarged under human influence. For example, it spreads easily along railways (Cotton and Stace, 1977). It is widespread throughout southern and Central Europe; the range extends east to north-western India and parts of China.

The species is found in most US states. In California and Oregon in particular, it has become an important component of annual grasslands, mainly in California's Central Valley and the South Coast Ranges of California and Oregon (Howard, 2006); according to CAL-IPC (2005) it is found throughout California except possibly the Great Basin region.

In Australia, the current range includes large tracts in the southwestern and southeastern part of the continent including Tasmania (Wallace, 1997). The grass is found between 25° S and 44° S (Wallace, 1997).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


AfghanistanPresentNativeeFloras, 2013
ArmeniaPresentNativeEuro+Med, 2013
AzerbaijanPresentNativeEuro+Med, 2013
BhutanPresentNativeeFloras, 2013
ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AnhuiPresentNativeeFloras, 2013
-FujianPresentNativeeFloras, 2013
-JiangsuPresentNativeeFloras, 2013
-JiangxiPresentNativeeFloras, 2013
-TibetPresentNativeeFloras, 2013
-ZhejiangPresentNativeeFloras, 2013
Georgia (Republic of)PresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
IndiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Jammu and KashmirPresentIntroducedKhuroo et al., 2007
IranPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
IraqPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
IsraelPresentNativeEuro+Med, 2013
JapanPresentIntroducedIshii et al., 2007; PIER, 2014Used in sod culture systems in orchards
JordanPresentNativeEuro+Med, 2013
KyrgyzstanPresenteFloras, 2013
LebanonPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
PakistanPresentNativeeFloras, 2013
SyriaPresentNativeEuro+Med, 2013
TaiwanPresentIntroduced1969Wu et al., 2010
TajikistanPresenteFloras, 2013
TurkeyPresentNativeEuro+Med, 2013
TurkmenistanPresenteFloras, 2013
UzbekistanPresentNativeeFloras, 2013


AlgeriaPresentNativeEuro+Med, 2013
EgyptPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
EritreaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
KenyaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
LesothoPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2014
LibyaPresentNativeEuro+Med, 2014
MoroccoPresentNativeEuro+Med, 2013
South AfricaPresentIntroducedPOSA, 2013In Northern, Eastern and Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State
-Canary IslandsPresentNativeIzquierdo et al., 2004Native status uncertain. All islands
TunisiaPresentNativeEuro+Med, 2013

North America

CanadaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-British ColumbiaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-OntarioPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-Yukon TerritoryPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
MexicoPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlabamaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-AlaskaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-ArizonaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-ArkansasPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-CaliforniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Howard, 2006
-ConnecticutPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-DelawarePresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-District of ColumbiaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-FloridaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-GeorgiaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive Howard, 2006; PIER, 2014
-IdahoPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-IllinoisPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-IndianaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-IowaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-KansasPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-KentuckyPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-LouisianaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-MainePresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-MarylandPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-MassachusettsPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-MichiganPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-MississippiPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-MissouriPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-MontanaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-NevadaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006Altitude 100-2000 m
-New HampshirePresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-New JerseyPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-New MexicoPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-New YorkPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-OhioPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-OklahomaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-OregonPresentIntroduced Invasive Howard, 2006
-PennsylvaniaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-Rhode IslandPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-South CarolinaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-TennesseePresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-TexasPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-UtahPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-VirginiaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-WashingtonPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-West VirginiaPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006
-WisconsinPresentIntroducedHoward, 2006

Central America and Caribbean

Costa RicaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2014
GuatemalaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2014
JamaicaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2014

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2014
BoliviaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2014
BrazilPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Rio Grande do SulLocalisedIntroduced Not invasive Forzza et al., 2012
-Santa CatarinaLocalisedIntroduced Not invasive Forzza et al., 2012
ChilePresentIntroduced Invasive Fuentes et al., 2013; PIER, 2014Recorded as present on mainland and in Juan Fernández islands, but as invasive only in the latter.
EcuadorPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2014
PeruPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2014
UruguayPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2014


AlbaniaPresentNativeEuro+Med, 2013
AustriaPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
BelgiumPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
BulgariaPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
CroatiaPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
CyprusPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
Czech RepublicPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
DenmarkPresentJensen, 2010
FinlandPresentIntroducedEuro+Med, 2013
FrancePresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
-CorsicaPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
GermanyPresent, few occurrencesNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
GreecePresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
HungaryPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
IrelandPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
ItalyPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
LithuaniaPresentIntroducedEuro+Med, 2014
MacedoniaPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
NetherlandsPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
NorwayPresentIntroducedEuro+Med, 2013
PolandPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013; Szczesniak, 2013Rare and threatened with extinction
PortugalPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
-AzoresPresentNativeSilva et al., 2012Native status uncertain
-MadeiraLocalisedNative Not invasive Press and Short, 1994Pastures, ruderal sites
RomaniaPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
Russian FederationPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
-Southern RussiaPresentNativeeFloras, 2013
SerbiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
SlovakiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
SloveniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
SpainPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
-Balearic IslandsPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
SwedenPresentIntroducedEuro+Med, 2013
SwitzerlandPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
UKPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2013
UkrainePresentNativeEuro+Med, 2013


AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentIntroducedAustralian Plant Census, 2013
-New South WalesPresentIntroduced Invasive Wallace, 1997
-QueenslandPresentIntroduced Invasive Wallace, 1997
-South AustraliaPresentIntroduced Invasive Wallace, 1997
-TasmaniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Wallace, 1997
-VictoriaPresentIntroduced Invasive Wallace, 1997
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroduced Invasive Wallace, 1997
French PolynesiaPresentPIER, 2014Tahiti and Rapa Islands
Midway IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
New ZealandPresentIntroduced Invasive Mahon, 2007; PIER, 2014
-Kermadec IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
Norfolk IslandPresentIntroducedFlora of Australia, 2013; PIER, 2014

History of Introduction and Spread

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In Australia, V. myuros was introduced soon after European settlement (Wallace, 1997). The exact pathway is unknown, but most likely it was accidentally introduced with solid ships' ballast, in contaminated forage or wool, or with livestock (Kloot, 1986). Seeds were found in imported grass seed as late as 1952 (Wallace, 1997). The years of the earliest herbarium records are 1837 from Tasmania, 1848 from South Australia, 1852 from Victoria, 1880 from New South Wales and 1891 from Western Australia (Wallace, 1997). Originally, the grass was confined to places near settlements, from which it spread into the surroundings.

In California, the grass was originally introduced for the purpose of soil binding and revegetating degraded soils (Wallace, 1997; Howard, 2006). It was probably first introduced to California before the 1800s (Mattoni, 1993). Seeds of V.myuros were added to seed mixtures for restoring native perennial grasslands (Brown and Rice, 2000). The reasoning was that Vulpia as a fast germinating and fast growing annual would stabilize the soil and provide a seed bed for establishing native perennial grasses (Brown and Rice, 2000). This practice proved to be counterproductive because in fact it reduces the survival and performance of native perennial grasses (Brown and Rice, 2000).

Risk of Introduction

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Seeds attach to animals and clothes and can easily be moved by livestock, people or machinery. If they are a component of seed mixtures used for revegetation programmes, the grass may be introduced in large quantities to new areas. Vulpiamyuros is a prolific seeder and accumulates a soil seed bank; soil movement may contribute to its spread. (A risk assessment, adapted for Florida, is provided by PIER (2014)).


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In its native range, V. myuros commonly grows in dry ruderal sites, on sand and gravel banks, roadsides and embankments, and in old fields, usually on acidic soils.

In the West Coast states of the USA, V. myuros is an important component of annual grasslands; it is also reported from a wide range of habitats subjected to disturbance, for example fires, soil degradation, abandonment of cultivated fields and logging (Howard 2006). It is an important groundlayer component in western hardwoods, especially in oak woodland, although it is most common in early successions, tends to decrease with canopy closure in woodlands, and does not persist in closed forests (Howard 2006). It forms part of the groundlayer flora in non-native bluegum woodland (Eucalyptusglobulus). It occurs in montane chaparral with Ceanothuscuneatus as the dominant shrub (Howard, 2006). In California it also grows at the edges of vernal pools (Howard, 2006), ephemeral water bodies harbouring a highly specialized flora. In northwestern Oregon, it invades broadleaved forests with bigleaf maple (Acermacrophyllum) and associated shrubs (Bailey and Poulton, 1968).

In the eastern and southeastern USA, V. myuros is found mainly in disturbed sites, e.g. roadsides, fields and waste places (Wunderlin, 1998).

In Australia, it is found in waste places, native and sown pastures and sheep camps (Wallace, 1997).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Deserts Present, no further details Natural
Arid regions Present, no further details Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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V.myuros is a weed in direct-seeded cropping systems, especially wheat (Wallace, 1997; Ball et al., 2008). Due to allelopathic compounds and toxic residues of decaying plants, it affects germination and growth of other crops including perennial legumes and grasses. Together with other annual grasses of Eurasian origin, it locally outcompetes native perennial grasses in the western USA including Elymusglaucus, Hordeumbrachyantherum, Koeleriacristata, Melicacalifornica, and Nassellapulchra (Brown and Rice, 2000).

Growth Stages

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Biology and Ecology

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V.myuros is a hexaploid species with a chromosome number of 2n = 42 (Cotton and Stace, 1977; Hickman, 1993).

Natural hybrids between V.myuros and Festucarubra have been reported in the British Isles (Ainscough et al., 1986), the Czech Republic (Krahulec and Nesvadbova, 2007), and Italy (Ardenghi et al., 2011). Hybrids with Festuca nigrescens have also been reported in the British Isles (Ainscough et al., 1986). Due to the cleistogamous flowers of Vulpia, such hybrids are rare and it has been suggested that they result from Festuca pollen reaching the stigmas of Vulpia flowers (Ainscough et al., 1986). Hybrid populations consist largely of sterile plants (Ainscough et al. 1986).

Reproductive Biology

Flowers of V.myuros are cleistogamous, i.e. non-opening and self-pollinating (Lonard and Gould, 1974). As an annual, the species reproduces by seed only. Seed weight is 0.5-0.6 mg (Wallace, 1997). Seed production can be prolific under favorable conditions and seed rain may reach 265 000 seeds m-2 (Dowling, 1996). The species forms a large soil seed bank (Bartolome, 1979; Wallace, 1997). Little is known on the longevity of seeds in the soil, although Wallace (1997) states that they remain viable for at least 3 years. Seeds dry- stored for two years germinated well (Buhler and Hoffmann, 1999), suggesting that the species accumulates at least a short-term seed bank.

Germination rates are usually high and seeds do not require scarification, but they do require an after-ripening period of 2-3 months (Buhler and Hoffmann, 1999; DiTomaso and Healy, 2007). Ball et al. (2008) give an after-ripening period of 1-12 months. After that, seeds germinate whenever conditions become favourable. Thus, fresh seeds collected near Davis, California, in June had germination rates of 2% or less whereas in August nearly 98% germinated (Laude, 1956). Buried seeds do not germinate well (Wallace, 1997), although germination can take place both under light and dark conditions (Dillon and Forcella, 1984). Deeply buried seeds fail to germinate unless disturbances bring them to the soil surface (Howard, 2006). Jensen (2009) found variable effects of burial depth on germination.

Glasshouse studies have found that germination rates at moderate temperatures (15-20° C) are higher than at high temperatures (23-28° C), but germination is complex and depends on the interplay of temperature, time of year, light conditions and water status (Wallace, 1997; Ball et al., 2008).

Under field conditions, seeds require an autumn rainfall of at least 13 mm (California – Howard, 2006) or a monthly rainfall of at least 50 mm (Australia – Wallace, 1997) to germinate.

Physiology and Phenology

V.myuros is a winter annual. Seeds germinate following sufficient rainfall in early spring. Most seedlings appear between March and early June in Australia (Wallace, 1997); in California, most germination occurs in autumn and early winter (DiTomaso and Healy, 2007). Growth rates are highest in the first 2-4 months but depend on temperatures (Wallace, 1997). Depending on growing conditions, it takes 7-30 days from flowering to seed maturity (Wallace, 1997). In Australia, seeds are typically shed in October to November (Scott, 1990). In California, most plants have dried and died by early May (Howard, 2006).


Vulpiamyuros is an annual. It survives adverse conditions (high summer temperatures, drought) as seeds (Wallace, 1997). The culms may die back and the grass sprout from the root crown when wet weather follows a short dry period during the growing season (Hyder and Bement, 1964).

Population Size and Structure

Since V.myuros is an annual, population density and sizes are variable from year to year, and depend on the habitat type and on the amount of precipitation received during the growing season.

In Australian pastures, up to 43 000 seedlings m-2 have been observed (Scott and Blair, 1987); in a Californian site seedling density was locally more than 200 000 seedlings m-2 (Howard, 2006). Cover ranges from 9-17% in sites of the Californian Central Valley but may reach much higher values (Howard, 2006). Disturbances generally lead to an increase of Vulpia cover (Howard, 2006).


In Europe, Vulpiamyuros is associated with ruderal species, heather (Callunavulgaris), and other annual grasses, e.g. Bromus sp. In Australian pastures, plants most frequently associated with V. myuros are broadleaved annuals (e.g. Trifoliumsubterraneum, Arctothecacalendula, Erodium sp.) and other annual grasses, e.g. Loliumrigidum, Hordeum sp., Bromus sp. (Wallace, 1997). In Californian annual grasslands, V. myuros is most commonly associated with red brome (Bromusrubens) and filarees (Erodium sp.), especially on thin, sandy soils (Howard, 2006).

Environmental Requirements

V. myuros is a winter annual and grows best in climates with cool winters and warm summers. Plants are sensitive to drought due to their shallow roots (Wallace, 1997; Tarasoff et al., 2013). It tolerates a wide range of soils, but not drought (Wallace, 1997). It grows well on soils of low to intermediate phosphorus status and tolerates soils with low potassium (Wallace, 1997).

In Australia V. myuros grows in areas with 200-1200 mm annual rainfall. Altitudinal ranges vary from region to region. In the Kashmir Himalaya, it grows at 1800-3200 m (Khuroo et al., 2007), in South Africa at 100-2900 m (POSA, 2013), in Mexico up to 1700 m (Howard, 2006), and in California from coastal areas up to 2000 m (Howard, 2006). In the northern tablelands of New South Wales, Australia, it is found above 1000 m (Wallace, 1997).


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BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Tolerated < 430mm annual precipitation
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)
Df - Continental climate, wet all year Tolerated Continental climate, wet all year (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, wet all year)
Dw - Continental climate with dry winter Preferred Continental climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry winters)

Notes on Natural Enemies

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The British Mycological Society (2014) lists two fungal species as associated with V. myuros, although it does not state that they are pathogenic: Puccinia hordei and P. recondita (Basidiomycota: Pucciniales).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

The dispersal unit of V.myuros is a single floret. Spikelets disarticulate when ripe and release individual florets. These usually fall near the parent plant and can become dispersed by wind and water (Howard, 2006). Any disturbances exposing bare ground favor establishment of the species and contribute to its spread.

Vector Transmission (Biotic)

Dispersal units of Vulpiamyuros are not particularly well adapted to wind-dispersal but due to their long awns they easily attach to hair, feathers and clothing. Long-distance dispersal is thus most likely by animals or people (Howard, 2006). Animal dispersal may include livestock as well as wild mammals and birds. Germination of seeds after passing through the digestive system of horses has been reported (Quinn et al., 2008).

Accidental Introduction

Seeds attached to livestock, machinery and clothing may be transported over long distances. Since V.myuros is prevalent on sheep camps (Wallace, 1997), seeds may become dispersed by wool products. Transport of seeds with sand and gravel has also been reported (Szczesniak, 2013).

Intentional Introduction

If Vulpia seeds continue to be a component of seed mixes, the grass is likely to reach new sites.

Impact Summary

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Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Economic Impact

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V.myuros releases allelopathic compounds and decaying plants release residues, both of which can strongly affect germination or growth of desired species (Wallace, 1997; An et al., 2000, 2001).

It is a weed in direct-seeded cropping systems. It causes yield loss in wheat (Wallace, 1997; Ball et al., 2007); dry matter yield of wheat was reduced by more than 60% following application of degraded Vulpia plants (Wallace, 1997). Such adverse effects have also been reported for lucerne (Medicagosativa) (as well as the pasture plant Phalarisaquatica) (Wallace, 1997).

V.myuros is palatable to livestock but of limited forage value. If other pasture species are available they will be preferred (Wallace, 1997). It is host to both the nematode Anguinafunesta [A. agrostis] and the bacterium Clavibactertoxicus [Rathayibacter toxicus], the organisms responsible for annual ryegrass toxicity in pastures with Loliumrigidum (Riley, 1995). As a weed in native or sown pastures in Australia, it affects wool production -- the seeds contaminate the wool and make it difficult to process, and the annual loss to the Australian wool industry has been estimated to be $A50 million per annum (Wallace, 1997).

The small and barbed seeds can cause injuries to the mouths and eyes of grazing animals (Code, 1996; Wallace, 1997). Hay containing V.myuros seeds also causes mouth ulcerations (Wallace, 1997).

V.myuros and Poatrivialis are serious contaminants of grass-seed production in Denmark (Jensen 2010). Both species are difficult to control and separation of Vulpia seeds from cultivated grasses proved to be nearly impossible (Jensen 2010).

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Habitats

V.myuros is among the annual grasses of European origin that have contributed to the replacement of native perennial grasslands by annual grasslands in western North America (Brown and Rice, 2000; DiTomaso and Healy, 2007). Besides annual grasslands, it invades a number of other plant communities where disturbances have occurred, e.g. shrubland, woodland, and the edges of wetlands. A significant cover of this grass prevents establishment of native species.

Together with other annual grasses such as brome (Bromus sp.), V.myuros has increased fire frequencies of Californian grasslands and open woodlands due to fuel accumulation (Howard, 2006). Its seeds do not suffer from fires because fire fronts in grassland burn through quickly and cause little soil heating and damage to seed (Howard, 2006). There is, however, no evidence that Vulpia is fueling a grass/fire cycle like Bromustectorum (Howard, 2006).

Impact on Biodiversity

The dense cover of V.myuros hinders the establishment and growth of native species. In native perennial grasslands, its early growth prevents establishment of native perennial grasses. Species affected include Elymus glaucus, Hordeum brachyantherum, Koeleria cristata, Melica californica, and Nassella pulchra (Brown and Rice, 2000). Effects on native species are largely due to altered habitat conditions (see above).

V.myuros is likely to hinder growth of conifer seedlings in mixed-conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada in California. Because it begins growth earlier in spring, it outcompetes tree seedlings for space, nutrients and water (Howard, 2006).

It interferes with establishment and growth of the federally endangered herb Pogogyneabramsii, a plant of Californian vernal pools (Howard, 2006).

Although small mammals utilize V.myuros, California vole [Microtus californicus] population size was negatively correlated with cover of Vulpiamyuros at one site (Garsd and Howard 1981).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Pogogyne abramsiiUSA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesCaliforniaCompetition - monopolizing resourcesHoward, 2006

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of fire regime
  • Monoculture formation
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
  • Damages animal/plant products
Impact mechanisms
  • Allelopathic
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - smothering
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult/costly to control


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Economic Value

In many orchards in Japan, V.myuros is used in sod culture systems (Ishii et al., 2007), especially citrus trees. The benefits of the grass layer include establishment of arbuscular mycorrhizae, suppressed weed growth, protection against soil erosion, and increased supply of organic matter to the soil (Ishii et al., 2007).

Environmental Services

V.myuros (cultivar ‘Zorro’) is used for soil stabilization and revegetation programs, including erosion control after fire (Brown and Rice, 2000; Howard, 2006). Adding Vulpia seeds to seed mixtures for restoring native grasslands is increasingly being questioned (Howard 2006). The reasoning was that as a fast-germinating and fast-growing annual it would stabilize the soil and provide a seed bed for establishment of native perennial grasses. This practice proved to be counterproductive because in fact it reduces the survival and performance of native perennial grasses (Brown and Rice, 2000).

In a California site infested by yellow starthistle (Centaureasolstitialis), V.myuros was seeded in for fuel enhancement before application of prescribed burning to control this weed (Hastings and DiTomaso, 1996).

V.myuros (cultivar ‘Zorro’) is used for rehabilitation of toxic soils of mine spoils (Howard, 2006), since it takes up mercury and arsenic (Heeraman et al., 2001), and grows even if the soil is so contaminated that it supports no other vegetation (Shaw 1996). Establishment on such soils is considered to be beneficial since soil leaching and erosion are reduced (Howard, 2006).

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Brome fescue (Vulpia bromoides (L.) Gray), another annual in this genus, is of similar appearance. It can be distinguished from V. myuros by its lower glume, which is 2.5-5 mm long, and its spikelets containing 4-7 florets (Wallace, 1997; Hickman, 1993).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Cultural Control

Tozer et al. (2010) found that oversowing with clover reduced the abundance and fecundity of deliberately sown V. myuros and Bromus hordaceus in pasture plots in New Zealand.

Physical/Mechanical Control

Residues of V.myuros in the soil can be managed by strategic use of autumn burning (Pratley and Ingrey, 1990). Spring fires can kill the species, and fire in any season may reduce its seed bank because of subsequent germination (Davis et al., 1989). The long-term effects of fires on Vulpia cover are unclear; studies have shown an increase after prescribed burning, a decrease, or no effect (Dunne et al., 1991; Howard 2006). Howard (2006) states that fire has limited use in controlling V.myuros.

Vulpia does not tolerate cultivation because buried seeds do not germinate (Wallace, 1997).

Hand-pulling is recommended for small infestations in sensitive habitats such as vernal pools (Gillespie and Allen, 2004).

Chemical Control

V.myuros is susceptible to simazine applied in autumn (Wallace, 1997). The effective rate of herbicide will depend on rainfall regime and soil type (Stephenson, 1990). Other herbicides used for V.myuros include propyzamide, carbetamide, dalapon, a mixture of chlorsulfuron plus trifluralin, or paraquat (Wallace, 1997; Jemmett et al., 2008). a mixture of S-metolachlor and prosulfocarb (Hashem et al, 2012). Hull et al. (2011) found that flufenacet and prosulfocarb were the most effective pre-emergence herbicides and acetolactate-synthase-inhibiting herbicides were the most effective post-emergence; acetyl-coenzyme-A-carboxylase-inhibiting herbicicdes were not effective.

A widely used method is spray-topping, where non-selective herbicides such as glyphosate are applied to seed heads during flowering. This prevents viable seed set (Wallace, 1997).


Vulpia sp. can persist under heavy grazing (Wallace, 1997), but a combination of heavy grazing in spring and autumn reduced its density by 91–97% (Wallace 1997). In contrast, it increases under moderate to heavy grazing in Californian annual rangelands (Howard, 2006). A study by Tozer and Chapman (2012) suggested that rotational grazing, causing a combination of severe shading and defoliation, could suppress Vulpia species to a greater extent than in continuously grazed pastures.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Little is known on the invasive behavior of V.myuros in the deserts of the southwestern USA. Detailed studies documenting its ecological impacts are lacking for; most studies state changes in cover or density over time. More research is needed to understand the mechanisms of how the species interferes with native plants in valuable habitats such as vernal pools or native perennial grasslands of the Pacific Northwest.


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Links to Websites

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California Invasive Plant Council
California WeedMapper
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.


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USA: California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC), 1442-A Walnut Street, #462, Berkeley, California, CA 94709,


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03/06/2013: Original text by:

Ewald Weber, Biodiversity Research, University of Potsdam, Maulbeerallee 1, D-14469 Potsdam, Germany

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