Phleum pratense (timothy grass)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Phleum pratense L.
Preferred Common Name
- timothy grass
Other Scientific Names
- Phleum nodosum L.
- Phleum pratense subsp. nodosum (L.) Dumort
International Common Names
- English: common cat's tail; common cat's-tail; herd grass; herd’s grass; meadow cat's tail; meadow cat's-tail; timothy
- Spanish: cola de gato; cola de rato; cola de topo; fleo de los prados; fleo pratense; timoti
- French: fléole des prés; timothée
- Chinese: ti mu cao
Local Common Names
- Germany: Timotheegras; Wiesenlieschgras
- Italy: coda di topo; codolina; fleolo; fleolo dei prati
- Japan: o-awagaeri; ooawagaeri
- Netherlands: timothee; timotheegras
- Portugal: capim-timóteo; rabo-de-gato
- Sweden: timotej
- PHLPR (Phleum pratense)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Phleum pratense is a tufted or single-stemmed, short-lived, cool-season perennial grass that grows in stools or clumps, reaching up to 150 cm in height. It is an important forage grass that is grown in the cool temperate regions of the world. Native to Europe and Asia, it has been widely introduced and grown worldwide as a highly palatable pasture grass, being particularly suitable for hay making. However, it has become invasive and a noxious weed in parts of its introduced range, dominating other plants, altering native plant communities and often forming monocultures. Control of this grass in conservation areas is difficult.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Monocotyledonae
- Order: Cyperales
- Family: Poaceae
- Genus: Phleum
- Species: Phleum pratense
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The genus Phleum contains over 15 species (The Plant List, 2013), with P. pratense the only species widely cultivated, although the diploid species P. bertololonii is cultivated in some countries, especially as an amenity grass (Jensen, 2005).
Phleum pratense L. is an accepted name originally published by Linnaeus in 1753 in volume I of his Species Plantarum. According to the Plant List (2013) the species has 46 synonyms and no infraspecific taxa.
P. pratense was reputedly given the common name timothy or timothy grass after Timothy Hanson, a US farmer and agriculturalist who is said to have introduced the species from New England to Maryland and other southern states of the USA from about 1720 (Lacefield et al., 2002).
DescriptionTop of page
According to Peeters (2004) and with additional material from Hubbard (1968), P. pratense is a tall, tufted or single-stemmed, short-lived, cool-season perennial grass. The plant is robust, hairless and caespitose. Stems are erect, 20-100(-150) cm tall, often bulging at the base and forming a small bulb. The blade is rolled when young, large (3-10 mm wide), flat, slightly rough on the margin, rather long (reaching 45 cm), pale green to greyish green. The ligule is strong, obtuse and white, and there are no auricles. The spike-like panicle is cylindrical, 6-20(-30) cm long. Spikelets are 1-flowered, breaking up at maturity above the glumes. Glumes persistent, narrowly oblong, truncate, keeled, 3-nerved, the keels fringed with soft spreading hairs and produced at the tip into a rigid awn 1-2 mm long. Lemma and palea one-third to three-quarters the length of the glumes. Anthers 2 mm long . Seeds are small, 2 mm long, with a 1000-seed weight of 0.3 to 0.7 g. P. pratense produces few tillers (4000 to 10,000 tillers/m²) compared to perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne; 6000 to 15,000 tillers/m²). However, leaves are produced at a slightly faster rate than in perennial ryegrass, and the maximum number of leaves per tiller is up to 6-7 (rarely 8) against only 3 for the ryegrass. Leaf lifetime is also longer, so that timothy is able to accumulate a lot of standing biomass before senescence commences.
Plant TypeTop of page Grass / sedge
DistributionTop of page
According to the National Plant Germplasm System of the USDA-ARS (2015), timothy is native to Europe, northern Africa and temperate Asia, as well as parts of India and Pakistan. It is naturalized in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Greenland, Mexico and the USA, including Hawaii and Alaska, as well as Mauritius, the West Indies, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Peru. It has also been introduced and is under cultivation in Japan. According to Kew (2015), the species is introduced in western, eastern and northern China, although the USDA-ARS (2015) considers it native to that country. Conversly, while Kew treats it as native to India, Bor (1960) has it as an introduction.
In North America, timothy is found in all 50 states of the USA and all Canadian provinces except Nunavut (USDA-NRCS, 2015). In the USA, timothy is most widely cultivated in the northeastern states, south to the Cotton Belt and west to the 100th meridian, in humid regions of Puget Sound and in mountainous regions (Esser, 1993). It is the most important forage grass in the northern part of the Nordic countries of Europe (Larsen and Marum, 2006).
Distribution TableTop of page
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/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Bhutan||Present only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced||USDA-ARS, 2015|
|China||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015||Introduced to north-central, south-central, southeast and Manchuria, but considered native by USDA-ARS|
|Georgia (Republic of)||Present||Native||USDA-ARS, 2015|
|India||Present||Native||Bor, 1960; Kew, 2015||Western Himalayas|
|-Himachal Pradesh||Present||Native||Shukla, 1996|
|-Hokkaido||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Invasive Species of Japan, 2015|
|Korea, DPR||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|Korea, Republic of||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|Turkey||Present||Native||Kew, 2015||Including Turkey in Europe|
|Crozet Islands||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|Canada||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-British Columbia||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-New Brunswick||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-Newfoundland and Labrador||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-Northwest Territories||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-Nova Scotia||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-Prince Edward Island||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-Yukon Territory||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|Mexico||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015||Present in south-west|
|USA||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Alaska||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Kew, 2015||Including the Aleutian Islands|
|-District of Columbia||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-Hawaii||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015; PIER, 2016|
|-Montana||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Kew, 2015||In Glacier National Park|
|-New Hampshire||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-New Jersey||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015||Listed as a noxious weed|
|-New Mexico||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-New York||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-North Carolina||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-North Dakota||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-Rhode Island||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-South Carolina||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-South Dakota||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-Virginia||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015||Listed as a noxious weed|
|-West Virginia||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-Wyoming||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Kew, 2015||In Yellowstone National Park|
Central America and Caribbean
|Argentina||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015||In north-east and south|
|Brazil||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015||In south|
|Chile||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015||In south and central regions|
|Falkland Islands||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|Czech Republic||Present||Native||USDA-ARS, 2015|
|Faroe Islands||Present||Native||Kew, 2015|
|France||Present||Native||Kew, 2015||Including Corsica|
|Italy||Present||Native||Kew, 2015||Including Sardinia and Sicily|
|Russian Federation||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Central Russia||Present||Native||Kew, 2015|
|-Eastern Siberia||Present||Native||Kew, 2015|
|-Northern Russia||Present||Native||Kew, 2015|
|-Russian Far East||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015||Including Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands|
|-Southern Russia||Present||Native||Kew, 2015||Caucasus region|
|-Western Siberia||Present||Native||Kew, 2015|
|Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)||Present||Native||Kew, 2015||Native to “Yugoslavia”|
|-New South Wales||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Kew, 2015|
|-South Australia||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015|
|-Western Australia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Kew, 2015|
|New Zealand||Present||Introduced||Kew, 2015; PIER, 2016||North, South and Chatham Islands|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
Although P. pratense is of Eurasian origin, it was first cultivated on any scale as a pasture grass in the USA. Known in Britain as common or meadow cat’s tail, it was probably introduced unintentionally to North America by early settlers. In North America it was termed herd’s grass after John Herd (or Hurd) who found it naturalized in New Hampshire in the early 1700s, while the more popular designation "timothy" may be derived from the name of Timothy Hansen, who apparently brought the grass from New England and popularized it in Maryland and other Atlantic states in the 1720s. By 1747, timothy had spread from New England north to Canada and westward, and by 1807 was the most important hay grass in the USA (Hoover et al., 1948; Encyclopedia of Life, 2015). Following its success in North America, it was promoted and introduced as a pasture grass to Britain in the 1760s and from there to other European countries (Larsen and Marum, 2006), as well as to Britain’s overseas colonies. P. pratense was introduced as a pasture grass to Japan (Hokkaido) in 1874 (Invasive Species of Japan, 2015).
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|Canada||USA||1747||Forage (pathway cause)||Yes||Hoover et al. (1948)|
|Japan||1874||Forage (pathway cause)||Yes||Invasive Species of Japan (2015)|
|UK||USA||1760s||Forage (pathway cause)||Yes||Larsen and Marum (2006)||Re-introduction of improved pasture types|
|USA||Europe||1700-1720||Forage (pathway cause)||Yes||Hoover et al. (1948)|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
Timothy is relatively short-lived and spreads via seeds, which are easily dispersed by wind (NatureServe, 2015). According to Ogle et al. (2011), timothy is not considered a weedy or invasive species, but can spread into adjoining vegetative communities under ideal climatic and environmental conditions. However, it is listed as a noxious weed in several US states, including New Jersey and Virginia (Klein, 2011). It is considered as invasive in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park (Wallace and Macko, 1993), Alaska (Tyser, 1992) and Hawaii (PIER, 2016), as well as in Japan (Invasive Species of Japan, 2015), New Zealand and Australia (PIER, 2016). In Australia it is classed as an environmental weed (Queensland Government, 2015).
As P. pratense is widely grown as a pasture crop, especially in cool temperate regions, the risk of escape from cultivation is relatively high due to the species’ profuse production of light, wind-dispersed seeds (1000-seed weight = 0.3-0.7 g (Peeters, 2015)). It is known to have escaped cultivation and become established in grass and forb meadows in Alaska, and as its use for reclamation and erosion control increases, with planting for the rehabilitation of sites altered by recreational activities or disturbed by the construction of railroads, canals, trails and highways (Elliott et al. 1987), so the risk of introduction into the wild increases. The Alaska Natural Heritage Program has given P. pratense an invasiveness ranking of 54, which is calculated according to a species’ ecological impacts, biological attributes, distribution and response to control measures. The ranks are scaled from 0 to 100, with 0 representing a plant that poses no threat to native ecosystems and 100 representing a plant that poses a major threat (Klein, 2011).
HabitatTop of page
In its native range, P. pratense was probably confined to the moist soils of water meadows and other low-lying grasslands. Since its widespread cultivation it is now common on a range of soils, as well as in field margins, roadsides and waste places (Hubbard, 1968). In North America it can be found growing in waterways, dry to wet meadows and other mesic environments. It is commonly found volunteering in canals and roadside borrow ditches (Ogle et al., 2011). It is encountered as an invasive species in abandoned fields (invasive.org, 2010), forests, meadows and alpine tundra (Esser, 1993), forest understorey (Houston, 1973), montane grasslands (Wallace and Macko, 1993) and early- to mid-successional grasslands and early-seral mixed forests (NatureServe, 2015). In Australia when grown as a forage crop it prefers heavy soils in moist habitats, but has spread into native vegetation, notably dry coastal vegetation, dry sclerophyll forests and woodlands (Queensland Government, 2015). In Japan it has invaded crop fields, farms, grasslands, streams, urban areas, vacant lots and waterfronts (Invasive Species of Japan, 2015).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Principal habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Disturbed areas||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Disturbed areas||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Rail / roadsides||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Natural grasslands||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Natural grasslands||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Cold lands / tundra||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Irrigation channels||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Timothy is of great concern to wildland managers because it often dominates areas it invades. It has the potential to inhibit secondary successional processes and modify native communities (Rutledge and McLendon, 1996). The species can cause declines in and competitively exclude native grasses (NatureServe, 2015). In Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Houston (1973) observed that timothy had dominated and completely altered the composition of the understorey vegetation in remnant aspen (Populus tremuloides) stands in the northern range. Tyser (1992) observed that extensive tiller mats of timothy limited cryptogam colonization sites and reduced native graminoid colonization in invaded fescue (Festuca) grassland in Glacier National Park, Montana.
Timothy can also be detrimental in young conifer plantations, where its seedlings compete strongly with conifer seedlings, especially those which are not fully established, by pre-emption of resources, allelopathy, attraction of insect pests and browsing animals, and increased fire potential. However, after conifer establishment (approximately 5 years), timothy may aid conifer growth by excluding shrub competition (Esser, 1993).
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
P. pratense is a hexaploid species, with 2n = 6x = 42 (Joachimiak and Grabowska-Joachimiak, 2000). Using RAPD and UP-PCR molecular fingerprinting methods, Guo et al. (2003) found that the species’ genetic variation was largely dependent on geographic diversity; different geographic genotype groups were distinguished.
Timothy mainly reproduces by seeds, which can remain viable for at least 4-5 years in dry, cool conditions. Baskin and Baskin (1998) include records of seed longevity to 20 and 39 years. Germination does not require alternating temperatures or light, but may be slow. Timothy can also reproduce vegetatively through tillering (Esser, 1993).
According to Ogle et al. (2011), timothy is adapted to soils with a pH of 5.5 to 7.0. It is tolerant of partially shaded conditions and is very winter-hardy, exhibiting tolerance of both cold temperature and ice encasement. It does not tolerate drought or prolonged high temperatures, nor alkaline conditions. Thakur et al. (2014) demonstrated that P. pratense in the temperate-boreal forest ecotone of Minnesota significantly increased shoot biomass production in soils with a +3.4ºC warming history compared to those with +1.7 ºC or ambient warming histories, indicating that such +3.4ºC soils would favour invasive P. pratense establishment.
ClimateTop of page
|Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year||Preferred||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||Tolerated||Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)|
|Ds - Continental climate with dry summer||Preferred||Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)|
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Alternaria arbusti||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Alternaria viburni||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Apiospora montagnei||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Aureobasidium pullulans||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki||Pathogen|
|Bacillus thuringiensis thuringiensis||Pathogen|
|Epicoccum nigrum||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Fusarium sporotrichioides||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Gibberella avenacea||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Paraphaeosphaeria michotii||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Phaeosphaeria herpotrichoides||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Puccinia graminis||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Thymelicus lineola||Herbivore||Leaves||not specific|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Stem rust (Puccinia graminis) is one of the most important diseases of timothy, causing loss of vigour and forage quality. Purple eyespot (Cladosporium phlei) and brown leaf blight (Drechslera phlei) are diseases commonly found across western Canada. Timothy is damaged by grasshoppers, and newly sown fields are also susceptible to wireworms and cutworms. Larvae of the European skipper butterfly (Thymelicus lineola) are a pest of timothy in eastern Canada (Ogle et al., 2011).
A preliminary study of endophytic fungi on P. pratense growing in Estonia found that half of the taxa isolated in this study (Aureobasidium pullulans, Epicoccum nigrum, Gibberella avenacea, Monographella sp. and Phaeosphaeria herpotrichoides) had been identified from timothy earlier. Five species (Alternaria arbusti, Lewia viburni [Alternaria viburni], Apiospora montagnei, Fusarium sporotrichioides and Paraphaeosphaeria michotii) were new reports for P. pratense. Two of these, A. arbusti and L. viburni, were also new species for Estonia (Varvas et al., 2013).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
P. pratense spreads via seeds, which are easily dispersed by wind (NatureServe, 2015).
Vector Transmission (Biotic)
As a major hay and silage species, P. pratense seed can easily be shed from hay used in animal feeding.
Timothy is one of the more important perennial grass cultivated in North America primarily for hay. In the western ranges it is also important as a forage plant (USDA Forest Service, 1937). As such a valuable grass crop, it is intentionally planted not only in North America but throughout its introduced range.
Pathway CausesTop of page
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|True seeds (inc. grain)||seeds||Yes|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Environment (generally)||Positive and negative|
Economic ImpactTop of page
Seed of P. pratense is considered a contaminant of grass and other seed lots in the eastern US states of Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia (Ogle et al., 2011), thus reducing seed lot quality and price. Timothy is also a host to diseases, such as ergot (Claviceps purpurea), that are serious pathogens of cereal crops (Munkvold et al., 1997; Davies and Ballingall, 2008).
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Habitats
Under ideal climatic and environmental conditions P. pratense can spread from cultivation into adjoining native plant communities where it can coexist or form monocultures (Ogle et al., 2011). Timothy is one of the exotics of greatest concern to wildland managers in North America because it establishes quickly, spreads vigorously and usually escapes early detection. Of 34 exotic species tested, timothy had the highest ability to invade closed vegetation areas, including forest, meadow and alpine tundra (Weaver et al., 1990). The species is capable of invading early- to mid-successional grasslands and early-seral mixed forests (NatureServe, 2015).
P. pratense has invaded and is seen as a major problem in several national and state parks in the USA. It is the most widely distributed exotic in Glacier National Park in Montana and is one of the most disruptive factors in native fescue grasslands there, having been intentionally seeded following underground utility construction in the 1980s. Timothy is of great concern because it often dominates the areas it invades. Extensive tiller mats of timothy limit cryptogam colonization sites and reduce native grass colonization (Tyser, 1992). In Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Houston (1973) observed that timothy had dominated and completely altered the composition of the understorey vegetation in remnant aspen stands in the northern range and as a result these stands would not respond to burning. Wallace and Macko (1993) noted it as an alien invasive occupying large areas of the montane grasslands of Yellowstone’s northern range.
In Australia, P. pratense is regarded as an environmental weed in Victoria and as a minor environmental weed or "sleeper weed" in other temperate regions of southern Australia. It has spread from cultivation to invade natural vegetation, posing a significant threat to dry coastal vegetation, dry sclerophyll forests and woodlands in Victoria. It appears on some local and regional environmental weed lists in this state, including those of the Goulburn Broken Catchment and at Falls Creek. In southern New South Wales, timothy has become naturalized in subalpine and montane areas of Kosciuszko National Park. It has also been recorded along the Warren River in south-western Western Australia (Queensland Government, 2015).
Impact on Biodiversity
Timothy can cause declines in and competitively exclude native grasses. It has the potential to inhibit secondary successional processes and modify native plant communities (Rutledge and McLendon, 1996).
Social ImpactTop of page
Allergens are released from timothy pollen grains (Behrendt et al., 1999). In fact, pollen of the genus Phleum is second only to Dactylis in allergenicity, causing widespread pollinosis in early summer. P. pratense pollen contains at least 28 antigens, of which 15 have been shown to bind to IgE. A number of major allergens have also been detected, including Phl p 1, Phl p 4, Phl p 5, Phl p 6, Phl p 7, Phl p 12 and Phl p 13, with Phl p 5 being the dominant allergen (Steinman, 2012).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Tolerant of shade
- Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
- Fast growing
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Modification of fire regime
- Modification of successional patterns
- Monoculture formation
- Negatively impacts forestry
- Negatively impacts human health
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Causes allergic responses
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Pest and disease transmission
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
From an agricultural perspective timothy is a very persistent and hardy grass, largely free of pests and diseases, and an extremely valuable crop for pasture and the production of hay and silage, as well as seed. Timothy is preferred by cattle and horses, and timothy hay is a premium feed for horses. Sheep utilize timothy during the summer in mountainous areas. Timothy seed is commonly used in wildlife seed mixtures. Under irrigated conditions, seed yields average 450-670 kg/ha (Ogle et al., 2011). Timothy is grown alone or in combination with lucerne, birdsfoot trefoil or clovers; with an application of 60 kg N/ha, timothy and clover mixtures have yielded 9.41 t DM/ha in Lithuania (Kadziulis, 1974). Sown alone, it yielded 4.86 t DM/ha in Italy (Cenci and Pagiotti, 1979). P. pratense is the most popular grass species in Konsen district in Japan, helping to maintain high milk production in cows (Saigusa et al., 1997).
According to Esser (1993), timothy is often used, particularly in plant mixtures, to stabilize soil against erosion and to provide cover for wildlife in clearcut areas that have been burned. It is widely used for rehabilitation of cutover, burned-over and overgrazed mountain rangelands. Timothy provides a highly palatable and nutritious forage, not just for domestic livestock, but also for big game animals. According to Ogle et al. (2011), timothy can be used with legumes and/or other grasses in seed mixtures for cover, filter strips, herbaceous buffers, waterways and other critical area applications.
Timothy stands provide habitat and nesting cover for game birds, small mammals and waterfowl. The seeds are consumed by birds (Esser, 1993).
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
- Erosion control or dune stabilization
- Wildlife habitat
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Timothy is often confused with meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis) and creeping foxtail (A. arundinaceus), but the foxtails have smoother, silky, flowering heads.
In timothy, the spikelets are strongly flattened, with a characteristic U-shaped outline and translucent bristles extending from the edges. The glumes extend into short stout awns that resemble horns. The tight cylindrical arrangement of spikelets, combined with the awns arising from each of the glume tips, is diagnostic of timothy. Compared to timothy, in the flowering heads of Alopecurus the spikelets are not strongly flattened and are more or less ovate in outline. The glumes do have long hairs but they lack awns at the tip and the lemmas have a delicate awn extending from the back. The glumes of timothy in contrast have strong awns and the lemmas lack awns entirely (Iowa State University, 2016).
Cured seed heads of creeping foxtail are dark or blackish, while those of timothy are tan to buff coloured. Timothy also resembles alpine timothy (P. alpinum), but plants of the latter are shorter and produce much shorter inflorescences. Additionally, alpine timothy is mainly found in montane meadows at higher altitudes than P. pratense and usually flowers in late July to early August, while timothy flowers from June until September (Ogle et al., 2011).
Timothy differs from most other grasses in that one or occasionally two of the basal internodes of the stem swell into a bulb-like growth called a haplacorm. This characteristic is often used for identification of the plant during its early stages of growth (Ogle et al, 2011).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Prevention and Control
Various measures for controlling invasive P. pratense have met with moderate success, although control in areas of conservation concern is difficult as most control methods negatively affect native vegetation (NatureServe, 2015). According to Tyser (1992) working in the Glacier National Park in Montana, reduction of timothy is not a realistic option there or other natural areas; the most reasonable recommendation for resource managers is not to use the species for revegetating disturbed sites.
According to Weaver et al. (1990) working in the Northern Rocky Mountains of the USA, timothy control should include both elimination and simultaneous introduction of a desirable competitor to minimize reinvasion.
Cultural Control and Sanitary Measures
Timothy stands become weak under close and continuous grazing (Ogle, 2011).
Glyphosate is used to control timothy and other perennial grass weeds in cereal crops with preharvest and stubble/fallow applications (Davies and Ballingall, 2008). Because of the herbicide’s effects on other plant species, however, this means of control would only be effective for timothy monocultures.
ReferencesTop of page
Baskin CC; Baskin JM, 1998. Ecology of seed dormancy and germination in grasses. In: Population biology of grasses [ed. by Cheplick, G. P.]. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 30-83.
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ContributorsTop of page
08/09/2015 Original text by:
Daiva Kasulyte and Andrew Praciak, CABI, UK
Distribution MapsTop of page
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