Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Alopecurus pratensis
(meadow foxtail)

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Datasheet

Alopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 14 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Alopecurus pratensis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • meadow foxtail
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • A. pratensis is a perennial grass with a broad native range. Records indicate it is native to areas within Europe, Asia Minor, Central Asia, Siberia to Mongolia, northern China and the Russian Far East. This sp...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Alopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); flowering plants on roadside.
TitleHabit
CaptionAlopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); flowering plants on roadside.
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Alopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); flowering plants on roadside.
HabitAlopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); flowering plants on roadside.©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Alopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); ungrazed plants near a fenceline.
TitleHabit
CaptionAlopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); ungrazed plants near a fenceline.
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Alopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); ungrazed plants near a fenceline.
HabitAlopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); ungrazed plants near a fenceline.©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Alopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); flowering stages. (a) immature flowerhead; (b) flowerhead with emergent stigmas; (c) flowerhead with some stigmas still emergent; (d) flowerhead with anthers emerging; (e) flowerhead when pollination complete.
TitleFlowering stages
CaptionAlopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); flowering stages. (a) immature flowerhead; (b) flowerhead with emergent stigmas; (c) flowerhead with some stigmas still emergent; (d) flowerhead with anthers emerging; (e) flowerhead when pollination complete.
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Alopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); flowering stages. (a) immature flowerhead; (b) flowerhead with emergent stigmas; (c) flowerhead with some stigmas still emergent; (d) flowerhead with anthers emerging; (e) flowerhead when pollination complete.
Flowering stagesAlopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); flowering stages. (a) immature flowerhead; (b) flowerhead with emergent stigmas; (c) flowerhead with some stigmas still emergent; (d) flowerhead with anthers emerging; (e) flowerhead when pollination complete.©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Alopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); ligule.
TitleLigule
CaptionAlopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); ligule.
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Alopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); ligule.
LiguleAlopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); ligule.©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Alopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); flowerhead.
TitleFlowerhead
CaptionAlopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); flowerhead.
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Alopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); flowerhead.
FlowerheadAlopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); flowerhead.©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Alopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); close-up of flowerhead.
TitleFlowerhead
CaptionAlopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); close-up of flowerhead.
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Alopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); close-up of flowerhead.
FlowerheadAlopecurus pratensis (meadow foxtail); close-up of flowerhead.©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Alopecurus pratensis L.

Preferred Common Name

  • meadow foxtail

Other Scientific Names

  • Alopecurus altissimus Schur
  • Alopecurus brachyglossus Peterm.
  • Alopecurus pallidus Dumort.
  • Alopecurus scaber Opiz
  • Phalaris aristata Schousb. ex Willd.
  • Tozzettia pratensis (L.) Savi

International Common Names

  • English: field meadow foxtail; golden foxtail grass; perennial foxtail; yellow foxtail grass
  • Spanish: alopecuro; alopecuro de los prados; cola de zorra; rabo de zorra; vulpino
  • French: vulpin des prés
  • Russian: lisohvost lugovoj
  • Chinese: da kan mai niang

Local Common Names

  • Germany: wiesenfuchsschwanz
  • Italy: coda di volpe; codino dei prati
  • Japan: o-suzume-no-teppo
  • Netherlands: grote vossestaart
  • Portugal: rabo-de-raposa
  • Sweden: ängskavle

EPPO code

  • ALOPR (Alopecurus pratensis)

Summary of Invasiveness

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A. pratensis is a perennial grass with a broad native range. Records indicate it is native to areas within Europe, Asia Minor, Central Asia, Siberia to Mongolia, northern China and the Russian Far East. This species was introduced into much of North America, parts of South America and Australia as a pasture and hay species and has since naturalized. In many countries this species has escaped cultivation and due to its rapid growth in spring, it may act as an agricultural weed. In its native range, this species has been recorded to form dense swards that allow very few grasses and herbaceous species to thrive with it, decreasing the biodiversity (Botanical Society of the British Isles, 2015). In its introduced range, A. pratensis has been reported as invasive in parts of Australia, Alaska, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Taxonomic Tree

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

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The genus Alopecurus includes 36 species, mostly in temperate and subtropical parts of Eurasia, northern Africa and the Americas (Mabberley, 1997; Barkworth et al., 2007).

Linnaeus named this species A. pratensis in 1753 and the name has never been changed (Monsen et al., 2004). A number of synonyms of this species exist including different varieties and cultivars. For example five breeding cultivars are used in Russia and two in Canada (Dzyubenko and Dzyubenko, 2009). A full list of synonyms for this species is provided by The Plant List (2013). Attractive variegated forms of this species occur, such as the varieties 'aureo-variegatus' and 'aureus' (Hubbard, 1984).

According to GBIF (2015) five subordinate taxa exist. These are A. pratensis alpestris, A. pratensis laguriformis, A. pratensis pratensis, A. pratensis pseudonigricans and A. pratensis soongoricus. The Plant List (2013) however only recognises three; A. pratensis subsp. alpestris, A. pratensis var. aquaticus and A. pratensis subsp. laguriformis. The high level of variability within the species is unsurprising considering its very broad native range.

Description

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A perennial tufted grass with culms erect or kneed at the base and then erect, 30–120 cm long, with no nodal roots. The ligule is membranous, 1–2.5 mm long. Leaf blades are 6–40 cm long and 3–10 mm wide. The leaf blade surface is smooth or slightly rough to the touch and rough on its lower surface. Inflorescence a spike-like panicle, 2–13 cm long and 0.5–1 cm wide, with tightly packed silvery-green to purplish spikelets. Spikelets solitary with one fertile floret with no rhachilla extension. Spikelets elliptical or oblong, laterally compressed, 4–6 mm long, falling entire. Glumes have margins united for ¼ of their length, both similar, 4–6 mm long and reach the apex of the floret. Fertile lemma elliptical or ovate; 4–6 mm long, membranous, keeled, 4–veined, lemma margins joined below the mid-point. Lemma with a single awn arising 0.2–0.3 way up the back of lemma, 6–10 mm long projecting 3-4 mm beyond the glumes. Palea absent or minute. Anthers 3; 2–3.5 mm long. Stigmas mature before the anthers to limit self-fertilisation. Fruit a caryopsis with an adherent pericarp. Spikelets shed independently from the seed head (Clayton et al., 2006).

In the UK a number of different varieties have been sown which have different forms, some with leafy, succulent foliage whilst others are stemmy and of little value to farmers (Hubbard, 1984).

Plant Type

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Herbaceous
Perennial
Seed propagated

Distribution

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A. pratensis has a broad native range, including Europe, Asia Minor, Central Asia, Siberia to Mongolia, northern China and the Russian Far East (USDA-ARS, 2015). It has however been widely introduced into temperate grassland regions around the world, where it has now naturalized. It is present in much of North America, parts of South America and Australia.

As a pasture species, A. pratensis seems to perform best in cooler areas such as the steppes of northern Russia and northern North America. 

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

Asia

AfghanistanPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2015
ChinaPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 20151500-2500 m altitude
-HeilongjiangPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
-Nei MengguPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
-XinjiangPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
Georgia (Republic of)PresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2015
IndiaPresentNativeClayton et al., 2006
IranPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2015
JapanPresentIntroducedMito and Uesugi, 2004
KazakhstanPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2015
Korea, Republic ofPresentIntroducedKil et al., 2004
KyrgyzstanPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2015
MongoliaPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2015
TajikistanPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2015
TurkeyPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2015
UzbekistanPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2015

North America

CanadaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2015
-AlbertaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-British ColumbiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-ManitobaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-Newfoundland and LabradorPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-Northwest TerritoriesPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-Nova ScotiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-OntarioPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-Prince Edward IslandPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-QuebecPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-SaskatchewanPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-Yukon TerritoryPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
GreenlandPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
USAPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2015
-AlabamaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-AlaskaPresentIntroduced Invasive Nawrocki et al., 2010
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-ColoradoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-ConnecticutPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-DelawarePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-District of ColumbiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-GeorgiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-IdahoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-IllinoisPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-IndianaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-IowaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-KansasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-KentuckyPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-MainePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-MarylandPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-MassachusettsPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-MichiganPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-MinnesotaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-MissouriPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-MontanaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-NebraskaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-NevadaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-New HampshirePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-New JerseyPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-New MexicoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-New YorkPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-North DakotaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-OhioPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-OklahomaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-OregonPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-PennsylvaniaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-Rhode IslandPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-South DakotaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-TennesseePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-UtahPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-VermontPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-VirginiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-WashingtonPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-West VirginiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-WisconsinPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-WyomingPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2015
ChilePresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2015
ColombiaPresentIntroducedRandall, 2012
UruguayPresentIntroducedRandall, 2012

Europe

AlbaniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
AustriaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
BelarusPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
BelgiumPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
BulgariaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
CroatiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
Czech RepublicPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
DenmarkPresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015
EstoniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
Faroe IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2015
FinlandPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015
FrancePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
GermanyPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
GreecePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
HungaryPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
IcelandPresent Invasive USDA-ARS, 2015
IrelandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
ItalyPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
LatviaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
LithuaniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
MoldovaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
NetherlandsPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
NorwayPresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015
PolandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
PortugalPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AzoresPresentNativeDAISIE, 2015
RomaniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
Russian FederationPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Central RussiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
SerbiaPresentNative Invasive USDA-ARS, 2015
SlovakiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
SloveniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
SpainPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
SwedenPresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015
SwitzerlandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
UKPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
UkrainePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015

Oceania

AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-New South WalesLocalisedIntroducedWeeds of Australia, 2012
-South AustraliaWidespreadIntroducedWeeds of Australia, 2012South-eastern areas
-TasmaniaWidespreadIntroducedWeeds of Australia, 2012
-VictoriaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Weeds of Australia, 2012
-Western AustraliaLocalisedIntroducedWeeds of Australia, 2012
New ZealandLocalisedIntroducedEdgar and Connor, 2010More common near Auckland and Christchurch

History of Introduction and Spread

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Wheeler (1950) reported the introduction of this species to North America from Europe in the mid to late1800s. A. pratensis was also carried to Australasia with the widespread emigration of people from western Europe during the 1800s. It was introduced into Australia in 1858 (Jessop et al., 2006) and New Zealand in 1871 from the UK for crop production purposes (Elser and Astridge, 1987).

.A. pratensis was once widely grown as a fodder grass in the UK but more recently its use has greatly diminished, being replaced by Phleum pratense (Barnes, 1930). According to Morisawa (1999), A. pratensis has grown in importance since the 1940s as a grazing grass in Canada, the USA and Japan. It was introduced into cultivation in Russia at the end of the eighteenth century and is now cultivated on relatively small squares in the forest areas of 39 regions and republics of the former USSR countries (Dzyubenko and Dzyubenko, 2009). 

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Australia UK 1858 Crop production (pathway cause) Yes No Jessop et al. (2006) Usually found in agricultural land
New Zealand UK 1871 Crop production (pathway cause) Yes No Esler and Astridge (1987) Only common near Auckland and Christchurch
USA Europe late 1800s Crop production (pathway cause) Yes No Kline et al. (1993) Introduced by an immigrant from eastern Europe

Risk of Introduction

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A. pratensis can reproduce by producing both a large number of seed and vegetatively from rhizomes. There is potential for seeds to contaminate grass seed and straw which could lead to its introduction into new areas, however it is likely that this species is already present in most countries in which it is likely to grow.

Habitat

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Barkworth et al. (2007) describes A. pratensis as growing in poorly to somewhat drained soils in meadows, riverbanks, lakesides, ditches, roadsides and fence rows. It has been widely introduced around the world as a pasture grass. In the UK, it is most abundant in low lying areas and river valleys, especially in water meadows or old grasslands on rich, moist soils (Hubbard, 1984). The Flora of China Editorial Committee (2015) describes its habitat in China as montane meadows, forest margins, river valleys at an altitude of 1500-2500 m. In North America A. pratensis is particularly suited to the cool, temperate climates of Canada and northern USA where it thrives best in moist areas such as swampy areas and near ponds and streams (Kline et al., 1993).

In Oregon it has been seen to invade emergent wetlands, moist meadows, ditches, streams, grasslands, fields and abandoned areas (OSU Rangeland Ecology and Management, 2005).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
 
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Principal habitat Natural
Disturbed areas Principal habitat Natural
Rail / roadsides Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Principal habitat Natural
Riverbanks Principal habitat Natural
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Natural

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
Phleum pratense (timothy grass)PoaceaeMain

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

A chromosome number of 2n = 28 has been recorded (Hubbard, 1984), however Barkworth et al. (2007) state that the diploid number may be 28 or 42.

Reproductive Biology

A. pratensis spreads vegetatively by sprouting from its short rhizomes. In addition to this, it produces a large number of seeds. It is one of the earliest grasses to flower in most environments, flowering as early as April in the UK (Hubbard, 1984). Plants are producers of large crops of light, fluffy seeds which makes commercial collection and sowing difficult (Hannaway and Myers, 1993). The weight of 1000 seeds has been recorded as 0.5 to 0.7 g and the flowers are cross-pollinated by wind (Dzyubenko and Dzyubenko, 2009). Baskin and Baskin (2001) state that the seeds require a period of dormancy and that germination is significantly increased when seeds are after-ripened for two to ten months. According to Hannaway and Myers (2004), this species has weak, slow developing seedlings.

Physiology and Phenology

In his study of the herbage productivity and nutritive value of nine grasses in the Peace River region of northwestern Canada, Fairey (2003) found that A. pratensis, along with Agropyron cristatum, had the earliest seasonal production of dry matter. A. pratensis had high levels of nitrogen in the foliage which may be due to its propensity for accumulating nitrogen and also its ability to accumulate and retain a high proportion of its herbage dry matter as leaf tissue (Fairey, 2003). Herbage nitrogen content and digestibility of all nine grasses, including A. pratensis decreased exponentially during the season.

Longevity

This grass is a perennial, but there is no information on the longevity of individual plants. As common in perennial grasslands, swards of A. pratensis are probably self-sustained by a combination of perennation of individual plants and the regular replacement of plant populations by new seedlings. Seed banks are perceived to be transient or persistent for only a short time, but this does not seem to have been accurately documented.

Activity Patterns

A. pratensis starts to grow early in the spring and is one of the earliest cultivated grasses to grow in most soils (Hannaway and Myers, 2004). A. pratensis is highly competitive when growing in its favoured nutrient rich, wet meadows (Nawrocki et al., 2010).

Population Size and Structure

Plants of A. pratensis can produce either an open turf or a dense sod in older stands (Duke, 1983).

Environmental Requirements

It has been suggested that A. pratensis and its cultivars can tolerate frost, heat, low pH, poor soil, salt, shade, viruses, weeds and waterlogging (Duke, 1978). However there is some disagreement with these comments with reports that it grows best on deep, moist and fertile soils. A. pratensis recovers quickly once snow cover retreats or after ice-capping or freeze thaw conditions. However, it is not drought tolerant. Low soil moisture levels cause the species to become semi-dormant until moisture conditions improve.

A. pratensis has a preference for moist or wet places. This is explained by Ellenberg’s (1988) description of the species as ‘a pure helophyte’ (a plant that grows in marsh, partly submerged in water, so that it regrows from buds below the water surface). It has elongated air spaces in the root cortex which helps in the aeration of the roots in waterlogged soil. This aerenchyma is present even when the plant is growing in slightly damp, well aerated soils (Ellenberg, 1988). A. pratensis can compete with Arrhenatherum species and other grasses in waterlogged soils however, its growth on dry soils is often suppressed (Ellenberg, 1988).

Hannaway and Myers (2004) state that in Oregon, this species does best where the climate is both moist and cool. This species is not sensitive to heat or cold, surviving in areas with summer temperatures at or above 38oC or in areas with winter temperatures consistently below zero. A. pratensis also does well at high elevations where frost can occur any month of the year. In addition to this it is well adapted to peaty soils or soils with a high water table but will also survive on clay or loam soils in areas of high rainfall or where irrigation or sub irrigation is available (Hannaway and Myers, 2004). It can also tolerate moderate amounts of acidity or alkalinity and has been suggested that it grows well within a pH range of 5.1-8.4 9 (Kline et al., 1993).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
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 Tolerated 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)
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 Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
65 49

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • impeded
  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • medium

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Claviceps purpurea Pathogen Stems Duke, 1983
Colletotrichum graminicola Pathogen Leaves Duke, 1983
Contarinia merceri Herbivore Seeds Barnes, 1930
Dasyneura alopecuri Herbivore Seeds Barnes, 1930
Heterodera avenae Herbivore Roots Duke, 1983
Heterodera schachtii Herbivore Roots Duke, 1983
Hymenula cerealis Pathogen Leaves Duke, 1983
Mastigosporium album Pathogen Leaves Duke, 1983
Pestalozzina soraueriana Pathogen Leaves Duke, 1983
Pratylenchus neglectus Herbivore Roots Duke, 1983
Pratylenchus penetrans Herbivore Roots Duke, 1983
Puccinia graminis Pathogen Leaves Duke, 1983
Puccinia striiformis Pathogen Leaves Duke, 1983
Puccinia triticina Pathogen Leaves Duke, 1983
Pyrenophora teres Pathogen Leaves Duke, 1983
Rhynchosporium orthosporum Pathogen Leaves Duke, 1983
Rhynchosporium secalis Pathogen Leaves Duke, 1983
Sclerospora graminicola Pathogen Leaves Duke, 1983
Sclerotinia borealis Pathogen Leaves Duke, 1983
Scolecotrichum graminis Pathogen Leaves Duke, 1983
Stenodiplosis geniculati Herbivore Seeds Barnes, 1930
Subanguina radicicola Herbivore Roots Duke, 1983
Ustilago alopecuri Pathogen Leaves Duke, 1983
Ustilago alopecurivora Pathogen Leaves Duke, 1983

Notes on Natural Enemies

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The seeds of A. pratensis, at least those collected in the UK, were described by Barnes (1930) as empty or infested with grubs of gall midges. Barnes named the culprits as Contarinia merceri, Dasyneura alopecuri, Stenodiplosis geniculati, and one or two species of Lestodiplosis, all gall-midges in the family Cecidomyidae. 

In Oregon, plants are reported to be susceptible to a number of fungal diseases (Hannaway and Myers, 2004). Duke (1983) presents a long list of fungi that have been reported on A. pratensis; Cephalosporium gramineum [Hymenula cerealis], Claviceps microcephala [Claviceps purpurea], C. purpurea, Colletotrichum graminicola (see Glomerella graminicola), Helminthosporium teres [Pyrenophora teres], Mastigosporium album, Pestalozzina sorauerianaP. graminisP. recondita (recorded as P. perplexans, but see P. tritici), P. rubigo-vera [P. striiformis], Rhynchosporium orthosporum, Rh. secalis, Sclerospora graminicola, Sclerotinia borealis, Scolecotrichum graminis, Ustilago alopecuri, U. alopecurivora.

A number of nematodes have also been isolated from A. pratensis; Heterodera avenae, H. schachtii, Pratylenchus neglectus, P. penetrans, Subanguina radicicola, and Tylenchus hordei [S. radicicola] (Duke, 1983).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

The light and fluffy seeds of A. pratensis may be carried for some distance by air currents.

Accidental Introduction

In Alaska, A. pratensis has been associated with commercial seed of other species and with imported straw, sometimes used as dog bedding (Nawrocki, 2010). Seeds of A. pratensis are very difficult to separate from important seed crops (Hannaway and Myers, 1993). Barkworth et al. (2007) also state that it may have become established from ballast or imported hay.

Intentional Introduction

This species has been deliberately introduced around the world as a meadow or pasture grass.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Animal production Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2015
Crop production Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2015
Forage Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2015

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative

Economic Impact

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Hannaway and Myers (1993) state that A. pratensis is very undesirable in seed producing areas in Oregon as its seed is extremely difficult to separate from some of the important seed crops. 

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Habitats

Rutledge and McLendon (1996) suggest that A. pratensis probably has little impact on ecosystem processes in Alaska. In contrast to this it has been suggests that A. pratensis may increase the density of graminoid layers in disturbed sites in Alaska, although there has as yet been little sign of it changing the density of vegetation in invaded areas (Nawricki, 2010).

Impact on Biodiversity

In northwestern North America, A. pratensis has been found to spread in large montane meadow complexes and wet areas, to the detriment of native plants (OSU Rangeland and Management, 2005). Venterink and Güsewell, (2010) state that this species may compete with native species for nitrogen in the soil. A. pratensis can form dense swards that allow few other grasses and herbaceous species to thrive with it (BSBI, 2015). It can compete with Phleum pratense and a number of other plant species for nutrients (OSU Rangeland Ecology and Management, 2005). The ability to outcompete other species is probably enhanced by the rapid growth of the species early in the spring.

Crawley et al. (1999) found that nearly 40% of experimental plots sown with seed mixtures of 80 dicotyledonous species became dominated by A. pratensis after seven years. When sown in experimental plots A. pratensis could outcompete Arrhenatherum elatius, Festuca rubra and Anthoxanthum odoratum.

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Sidalcea nelsonianaUSA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesOregon; WashingtonCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of successional patterns
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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Economic Value

This species is often cultivated as a meadow or pasture grass when, in suitable environments and under appropriate management, it can produce fodder over a long season. In Russia, it is widely used as a hay crop in wetlands (Dzyubenko and Dzyubenko, 2009). A. pratensis is used for forage in Canada and the north-west of the USA. In North America, practically all the seeds for domestic use are harvested in the mountainous meadows of Oregon (Morisawa, 1999). Seeds should be harvested when seeds begin to shatter from the tops of the seed heads. Strippers can be run through the seeds every two to three days as the seed continues to mature. For sowing, seed must be mixed with a carrier such as cracked corn or rice hulls. Kline et al. (1993) recommend the use of seed coated with calcium and magnesium carbonates or phosphates. When the grass is grown for seed production, weed control is important (Kline et al., 1993) and can be helped by proper tillage or use of herbicides before planting.

Social Benefit

A. pratensis is presumably of considerable social benefit in those parts of the world where this species is used as a forage crop, such as northern North America and across northern Russia and Asia. Attractive variegated forms of this species occur, such as the varieties 'aureo-variegatus' and 'aureus' that are commonly used as decorative grasses in gardens (Hubbard, 1984).

Environmental Services

Kline et al. (1993) suggest that this species may be useful as fodder for wildlife such as deer and elk (Cervus canadensis) in alpine areas. Duke (1983) described A. pratensis forage as having a dry matter content of 26.1%, with 17.1% crude protein, 4.6% fat, 21.5% crude fibre, 10.7% ash and 46% nitrogen-free extract, on a dry matter basis. Hay, with a dry matter content of 85.7 to 88.8%, contained an average of 13.8% crude protein, 2.6% fat, 30.0% crude fibre, 8.6% ash and 45.0% nitrogen-free extract. A study by Kline and Broersma (1983) found that when grown as a fodder grass, yields of A. pratensis increased five times by the application of 90 kg ha-1 of urea applied in spring or after each harvest. Yields did not increase significantly at higher rates of application. However the nitrogen content of A. pratensis increased with increasing levels of applied nitrogen, so that applying nitrogen fertilizer in spring and after each harvest resulted in unsafe harmful levels for cattle at 90 kg ha-1 of applied nitrogen and hazardous levels at 180 kg ha-1 (Kline and Broersma, 1983). 

A. pratensis may also be useful for areas where waterfowl nest (Kline et al., 1993) and also provides cover for small animals (OSU Rangeland Ecology and Management, 2005).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Forage

Environmental

  • Ornamental

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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A. pratensis is similar to other species of the same genus including A. geniculatus,A. aequalis and A. magellanicus. A. geniculatus is also native to both North America and Eurasiaand can bedistinguished from A. pratensis by its creeping lower flower stems and shorter spikelets (up to 3 mm long). It usually has shorter and narrower panicles. A. aequalis is also native to North America and Eurasia and has spikelets that are only 2-3 mm long. A. magellanicus is widely distributed, has an inflorescence that is relatively short and is oblong or oval in shape.

A. pratensis is often confused with Phleum pratense but can easily be differentiated as P. pratense has an awn on each glume and not on the lemma and has a well developed palea. In addition, A. pratensis flowers very early in spring, while P. pratense flowers much later, in late spring or early summer. The flower head of P. pratense is spikier to the touch, whilst the flower head of A. pratensis is much softer.

Prevention and Control

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Control

Physical/Mechanical Control

Removal of A. pratensis by hand pulling is possible (Morisawa, 1999). Flooding however is unlikely to be successful since the species can readily endure periods of flooding by fresh or brackish water (Morisawa, 1999).

Thorvaldsson (1996) found that in Iceland, early spring grazing decreased the percentage of A. pratensis in a mixed species grass field. However, it has been suggested that as the grass matures, it becomes less palatable to cattle and as a result, other species may be eaten instead (Kline et al., 1993).

Biological Control

Biological control of this species has not been suggested due to its economic importance as a forage species in several parts of the world.

Chemical Control

Glyphosate effectively controls A. pratensis but will kill any other herbaceous species it contacts. For selective control amongst broadleaf plants, haloxyfop, sethoxydim or fluazifop may be effective. Sheley (2007) found that applying chlorsulfuron or metsulfuron-methyl caused no loss in biomass production in A. pratensis

References

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Barkworth ME, Anderton LK, Capels KM, Long S, Piep MB, 2007. Manual of Grasses for North America [ed. by Barkworth, M. E. \Anderton, L. K. \Capels, K. M. \Long, S. \Piep, M. B.]. Utah, USA: Intermountain Herbarium and Utah State University, 628.

Barnes HF, 1930. On the biology of the gall-midges (Cecidomyidae) attacking meadow foxtail grass (Alopecurus pratensis), including the description of one new species. Annals of Applied Biology, 17(2):339-366.

Baskin C, Baskin J, 2001. Seeds: ecology, biogeography, and evolution of dormancy and germination. San Diego, California, USA: Academic Press, Elsevier, 667 pp.

Blackman RL, Eastop VF, 2008. Aphids on the world's herbaceous plants and shrubs. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 1460 pp.

Boonman JG, Mikhalev SS, 2005. The Russian Steppe. In: Grasslands of the World [ed. by Suttie, J. M. \Reynolds, S. G. \Batello, C.]. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 381-416. [Plant Production and Protection Series no. 34.] ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/008/y8344e/y8344e10.pdf

Botanical Society of the British Isles, 2015. Alopecurus pratensis meadow foxtail. http://www.bsbi.org.uk/TEP_Alopecurus_pratensis.pdf

Clayton WD, Vorontsova MS, Harman KT, Williamson H, 2006. GrassBase - The Online World Grass Flora. UK: The Board of Trustees, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. http://www.kew.org/data/grasses-db.html

Crawley MJ, Brown SL, Heard MS, Edwards GR, 1999. Invasion-resistance in experimental grassland communities: species richness or species identity?. Ecology Letters, 2(3):140-148; 27 ref.

DAISIE, 2015. Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe. European Invasive Alien Species Gateway. www.europe-aliens.org/default.do

Duke JA, 1978. The quest for tolerant germplasm. Crop Tolerance to Suboptimal Land Conditions [ed. by G. A. Jung]. Madison, Wisconsin, USA: American Society of Agronomy., pp. 1-61.

Duke JA, 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. Unpublished. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA: Centre for New Crops and Plant Products. World Wide Web page at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/Indices/index_ab.html.

Dzyubenko NI, Dzyubenko EA, 2009. Alopecurus pratensis L. - Meadow foxtail. Interactive Agricultural Atlas of Russia and Neighbouring Countries - Economic Plants and their Diseases, Pests and Weeds., Russia. http://agroatlas.ru/en/content/cultural/Alopecurus_pratensis_K/

Edgar E, Connor HE, 2010. Flora of New Zealand - Vol. V: Gramineae, Ed.2 [ed. by Edgar, E.\Connor, H. E.]. Lincoln, New Zealand: Manaaki Whenua Press, Landcare Research, xlii + 23 + 650 pp.

Ellenberg H, 1988. Vegetation ecology of Central Europe. 1988, Ed.4, 731 pp.

Esler AE, Astridge SJ, 1987. The naturalisation of plants in urban Auckland, New Zealand. 2. Records of introduction and naturalisation. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 25(4):523-537.

Fairey NA, 2003. Herbage productivity and nutritive value of nine grasses in the Peace River region of northwestern Canada. Canadian Journal of Plant Science, 84:163-171.

Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2015. Flora of China. St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://www.efloras.org/flora_page.aspx?flora_id=2

GrassWorld, 2015. Grass World. http://grassworld.myspecies.info/

Hannaway DB, Myers D, 2004. Meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis L.). Oregon, USA: Oregon State University. http://forages.oregonstate.edu/php/fact_sheet_print_grass.php?SpecID=4&use=Forage

Hubbard CE, 1984. Grasses: A guide to their structure, identification, uses and distribution in the British Isles. UK: Penguin Books Limited, 476 pp.

Jessop J, Dashorst GRM, James FM, 2006. Grasses of South Australia: an illustrated guide to the native and introduced species. Kent Town, Australia: Wakefield Press, 554.

Kil JH, Shim KC, Park SH, Koh KS, Suh MH, Ku YB, Suh SU, Oh HK, Kong HY, 2004. Distributions of naturalized alien plants in South Korea. Weed Technology [Invasive plants in natural and managed systems (IPINAMS) conference, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA, November 2003.], 18(Suppl.):1493-1495.

Kline P, Broersma K, 1983. The yield, nitrogen and nitrate content of reed canarygrass, meadow foxtail and timothy fertilized with nitrogen. Canadian Journal of Plant Science, 63(4):943-950.

Kline P, Broersma K, Wright SBM, Rode LM, 1993. Meadow foxtail: a production guide. Agriculture Canada Publication, No. 1890/E. 22pp.

Mabberley DJ, 1997. The plant-book: a portable dictionary of the vascular plants. Ed. 2: xvi + 858 pp. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

Mito T, Uesugi T, 2004. Invasive alien species in Japan: the status quo and the new regulation for prevention of their adverse effects. Global Environmental Research, 8(2):171-191.

Monsen SB, Stevens R, Shaw N, 2004. Chapter 18. Grasses. In: Restoring western ranges and wildlands. Volume 2 [ed. by Monsen, S. B.\Stevens, R.\Shaw, N.]. Fort Collins, Colorado, USA: USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 295-424. [USDA Forest Service General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-136.] http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs/rmrs_gtr136_2/rmrs_gtr136_2_295_424.pdf

Morisawa T, 1999. Weed notes: Alopecurus pratensis. California, USA: The Nature Conservancy, Wildland Invasive Species Program. http://www.invasive.org/gist/moredocs/alopra01.pdf

Nawrocki T, 2010. Meadow foxtail: Alopecurus pratensis L. Alaska, USA. http://aknhp.uaa.alaska.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Alopecurus_pratensis_BIO_ALPR3.pdf

Nawrocki T, Flagstad LA, Carlson ML, 2010. Alopecurus pratensis L. Alaska non-native plant invasiveness ranking form. Alaska, USA. http://aknhp.uaa.alaska.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Alopecurus_pratensis_RANK_ALPR3.pdf

OSU Rangeland Ecology and management, 2005. Meadow foxtail, Alopecurus pratensis L. Oregon, USA: Oregon State University. http://oregonstate.edu/dept/range/sites/default/files/Meadow_20Foxtail.pdf

Randall RP, 2012. A global compendium of weeds, 2. Western Australia: Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, 1124 pp.

Rutledge C, McLendon T, 1996. An assessment of exotic plant species in Rocky Mountains National Park. Fort Collins, Colorado, USA: Department of Rangeland Ecosystem Science, Colorado State University.

Sheley RL, 2007. Tolerance of meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis) to two sulfonylurea herbicides. Weed Technology, 21(2):470-472.

Thorvaldsson G, 1996. Botanical composition of Icelandic grass fields. Acta Agriculturæ Scandinavica. Section B, Soil and Plant Science, 46(2):121-127.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012. In: Nelson's Checker-mallow( Sidalcea nelsoniana). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. US Fish and Wildlife Service, 44 pp.. http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc4004.pdf

USDA-ARS, 2015. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysearch.aspx

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Wheeler WA, 1950. Forage and pasture crops. Princeton, New Jersey, USA: Van Nostrand, Inc., 752 pp.

Contributors

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06/04/2015 Original text by:

Ian Popay, Landcare Research, New Zealand

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