Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Phalaris minor
(littleseed canarygrass)



Phalaris minor (littleseed canarygrass)


  • Last modified
  • 15 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Phalaris minor
  • Preferred Common Name
  • littleseed canarygrass
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae

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P. minor inflorescence with head of barley.
CaptionP. minor inflorescence with head of barley.
Copyright©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK
P. minor inflorescence with head of barley.
InflorescenceP. minor inflorescence with head of barley.©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK
Inflorescence of P. minor (centre) compared with P. brachystachys (left) and P. paradoxa (right).
CaptionInflorescence of P. minor (centre) compared with P. brachystachys (left) and P. paradoxa (right).
Copyright©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK
Inflorescence of P. minor (centre) compared with P. brachystachys (left) and P. paradoxa (right).
InflorescenceInflorescence of P. minor (centre) compared with P. brachystachys (left) and P. paradoxa (right).©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK
P. minor leaf and ligule (left) compared with wheat (right).
TitleLeaf and ligule
CaptionP. minor leaf and ligule (left) compared with wheat (right).
Copyright©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK
P. minor leaf and ligule (left) compared with wheat (right).
Leaf and liguleP. minor leaf and ligule (left) compared with wheat (right).©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Phalaris minor Retz. (1783)

Preferred Common Name

  • littleseed canarygrass

International Common Names

  • English: canarygrass
  • Spanish: alfarin (Argentina); alpiste silvestre (Honduras); alpistillo; pasto de San Juan; pasto romano
  • French: alpiste mineur; alpiste modeste; petit phalaris
  • Portuguese: erva-cabecinha; talaceiro

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Glanzgras, Kleines
  • India: bandaria; gulli danda; kanki
  • Netherlands: kanariegras, klein

EPPO code

  • PHAMI (Phalaris minor)

Taxonomic Tree

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

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page The name Phalaris minor is universally accepted for this weed. It is normally a tetraploid with chromosome number 2n=28 (Sidhu, 1991). Several varieties have been reported, including P. minor var. minor, P. minor var. integra (Dotham, 1986) and P. minor var. nepalensis (Bor, 1979).


Top of page P. minor is a winter annual propagated by seeds. It is erect or decumbent, caespitose, more-or-less slender with stems up to 90 cm tall. Leaves long, linear, acuminate; sheath smooth; ligule an oblong hyaline membrane, about 5 mm long (Hooker, 1982; Shukla, 1996). Panicle more-or-less protruding or entirely protruding from the uppermost swollen leaf sheath, ovate to oblong, 5-8 cm long, green; spikelets green, broadly lanceolate on short pedicels, shining, not as conspicuously striped as in P. brachystachys, 4-5 mm long, strongly laterally compressed. Glumes 4-6 mm long, fertile lemma lanceolate about 3 mm long, more or less lustrous; sterile lemma solitary, about 1 mm long. Glumes acute, but not mucronate, with a minutely toothed wing. Hermaphrodite florets with palea villous with applied hairs, and with very small filiform residue of a neutral floret at the base.

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


AfghanistanPresentHolm et al., 1979
BangladeshPresentSamunder Singh, 2007
BhutanPresentParker, 1992
IndiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
-BiharPresentShukla, 1996
-ChhattisgarhPresentTripathi and Tiwari, 2007
-DelhiPresentShukla, 1996
-HaryanaPresentAshok et al., 2006
-Himachal PradeshPresentSaini and Angiras, 2005
-Indian PunjabPresentDhawan and Shubra, 2007
-Jammu and KashmirPresentShukla, 1996
-Madhya PradeshPresentMishra, 2008
-MaharashtraPresentShukla, 1996
-MeghalayaPresentShukla, 1996
-RajasthanPresentRamesh et al., 2004
-Uttar PradeshPresentShukla, 1996
-UttarakhandPresentGovindra and Singh, 2005
-West BengalPresentShukla, 1996
IranWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
IraqWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
IsraelWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
JordanWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
LebanonWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
NepalWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
PakistanWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
Saudi ArabiaPresentChaudhary et al., 1981
SyriaPresentHolm et al., 1979
TurkeyPresentHolm et al., 1979


EgyptWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
MoroccoWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
South AfricaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
ZimbabwePresentHolm et al., 1979

North America

MexicoWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
USAPresentHolm et al., 1979
-CaliforniaPresentGroenigen and Kessel, 2002

South America

ArgentinaPresentHolm et al., 1979
BrazilPresentHolm et al., 1979
ColombiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
EcuadorPresentHolm et al., 1979
UruguayPresentHolm et al., 1979


AlbaniaPresentTutin, 1980
BelarusPresentTret'yakov, 1988
FrancePresentTutin, 1980
GreecePresentHolm et al., 1979
ItalyWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
PortugalWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
-AzoresPresentTutin, 1980
SpainWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
-Balearic IslandsPresentTutin, 1980
UKPresentBhan and Froud-Williams, 2006
Yugoslavia (former)PresentTutin, 1980


AustraliaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979
-VictoriaPresentNiknam et al., 2002
New ZealandPresentParham and Healy, 1985


Top of page P. minor is a typical winter annual, and grows best at temperature ranges of 5-20°C. It is more dominant under irrigated conditions. It occurs on a wide range of soil types of varying pH and salinity. The problem is most serious in vast areas of south Asia where rice-wheat cropping systems are followed.

Habitat List

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Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page P. minor infests almost all crops grown in winter. It is a serious weed in wheat in most parts of India and Pakistan, the Mediterranean countries, the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East, Central America, Australia and South Africa.

Biology and Ecology

Top of page P. minor is a very competitive weed which infests many crops. The seeds germinate best at a temperature range of 10-20°C (Bhan and Choudary, 1976). No germination occurs at temperatures below 5°C or above 30°C. Alternating temperatures of 20/10°C gave the highest germination, and light had no effect on P. minor germination (Yaduraju et al., 1984). The seeds do not exhibit dormancy but require ca 4-5 months of after-ripening to attain maximal germination (Yaduraju et al., 1984). The seeds retain viability for 5-6 years when stored under room conditions (Chhokar, 1998), but their fate in soil is not known.

The seeds survive successfully under the anaerobic conditions created by rice culture during the summer months in the Indo-Gangetic plains and dominate the weed flora in the wheat crop, while it is not a very serious weed in other rotation systems of the region. The seeds are reported to undergo secondary dormancy under anaerobic conditions (Parasher and Singh, 1985).

Growth is favoured by high fertility, but soil type and pH are not critical. Growth is apparently favoured most by medium-to-heavy, moist and well drained soils, but it will also grow in alkaline and saline conditions. The weed grows successfully in most winter crops, but competition is most serious with crops of short stature. Allelopathic effects of root exudates of P. minor on wheat have been reported (Parasher and Singh, 1985).


Top of page P. minor is a very competitive weed in several winter crops in many Mediterranean countries, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Mexico, Australia and South Africa. Yield losses vary depending on crop, climate and management practices. The losses are maximum in crops of short stature such as chickpea, lentil, peas, etc.

In India, yield losses ranging from 15-50% have been reported (Gill et al., 1978). Cudney and Hill (1979) recorded 40-60% reduction in wheat yield with P. minor at 108-915 plants per square metre. Afentouli and Eleftherohorinos (1996) reported 36-39% reduction in wheat yield in Greece with 304 canarygrass plants per square metre.

P. minor has been listed as amongst the top ten weeds in Pakistan (Shad and Siddique, 1996) and in central Greece (Damanakes, 1982). In Spain, several species of Phalaris are known to infest wheat and barley in the west Andulasian region, of which P. paradoxa and P. minor are the most serious (Saavedra et al., 1989). The problem has taken a new turn in some countries with reported development of resistance to herbicides. Vast wheat areas in the fertile north-western parts of India are faced with the problem of resistance to isoproturon - the herbicide recommended for its control (Malik and Singh, 1995). An extremely heavy population build-up, in the order of 2000-3000 plants per square metre, is frequently seen. Yield reductions in the region of 60-100% have been reported from these areas. A similar problem, albeit at a lesser intensity, has been documented in Israel (Tal et al., 1996).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Forage


  • Poisonous to mammals

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page Several other Phalaris species occur as weeds. Perennial species include P. tuberosa (= P. nodosa, P. aquatica) and P. arundinacea. These are robust, 1-2 m high, with rhizomes.

Annual species with which P. minor is more likely to be confused include:

P. paradoxa (see separate datasheet) - this is similar in vegetative morphology but the spikelets have distinctive winged, toothed glumes, 7 mm long.

P. brachystachys (see separate data sheet) - this is even more similar, but has larger glumes, 7-8 mm long with distinct green stripes at the base of the entire wings. These are sterile florets less than one-third as long as the fertile.

P. canariensis - similar to P. brachystachys but sterile florets more than half as long as the fertile, and the inflorescence shorter and fatter, usually ovoid.

These annual species all occur around the Mediterranean and may overlap. Edgecombe (1970) provides useful drawings of the spikelets of P. minor, P. brachystachys and P. paradoxa.

Prevention and Control

Top of page Cultural Control

Mechanical removal is very effective and useful if done during the initial growth stages of the crop. However, this is not always practical because of the morphological similarities of P. minor to wheat, in which it is a major weed. The stale seed-bed technique involves encouraging emergence of P. minor by irrigating the field, then later eliminating the weed either by shallow cultivation or by use of non-residual foliage-acting herbicides. Competitive crops such as rape, mustard, barley, etc. are useful. Rotations with fodder crops such as oats or berseem (Trifolium alexandrinum) and cultivation of sugarcane have been found to be effective in checking weed growth (Banga et al., 1997). Employing a higher seed rate, narrow row spacing, criss-cross sowing, etc. in wheat offers P. minor control to some extent, but these methods are inconsistent and cannot be relied upon. In India, P. minor has been found to be very sensitive to soil solarization carried out for a short period during summer, but its practical use in the field is unlikely due to economic considerations.

Chemical Control

P. minor is highly sensitive to phenylureas. Clorotoluron, isoproturon, methabenzthiazuron and metoxuron have been widely used in India, Pakistan and the Mediterranean countries (Gill et al., 1978; Catizone and Viggiani, 1980). Isoproturon, however, has remained as the most stable and reliable herbicide available for use in India. Excellent control of several species of Phalaris including P. minor has been reported with post-emergence application of diclofop-methyl (Breidert, 1978; Catizone and Viggiani, 1980). Continuous use of herbicides has, however, resulted in the development of P. minor populations resistant to isoproturon in India (Malik and Singh, 1995) and for some aryloxyphenoxypropionate herbicides in the Mediterranean region (Tal et al., 1996).


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Afentouli CG; Eleftherohorinos IG, 1996. Littleseed canarygrass (Phalaris minor) and short-spiked canarygrass (Phalaris brachystachys) interference in wheat and barley. Weed Science, 44(3):560-565; 24 ref.

Ashok Kumar; Malik RK; Hasija RC, 2006. Efficacy of metribuzin alone and as tank mixture with different herbicides against weeds in wheat. Environment and Ecology, 24S(Special 4):1046-1049.

Banga RS; Yadav A; Malik RK, 1997. Crop rotation - an effective means to control resistant Phalaris minor in wheat. Farmer and Parliament, 33(3):15-16.

Bhan A; Froud-Williams RJ, 2006. Phalaris spp. competition with wheat using an additive design series. In: 15th Australian Weeds Conference, Papers and Proceedings, Adelaide, South Australia, 24-28 September 2006: Managing weeds in a changing climate [ed. by Preston, C.\Watts, J. H.\Crossman, N. D.]. Victoria, Australia: Weed Management Society of South Australia, 417-419.

Bhan VM; Chaudary DDB, 1976. Germination, growth and reproductive behaviour of Phalaris minor Retz as affected by the date of planting. Indian Journal of Weed Science, 8:126-130.

Bor NL, 1979. The Grasses of Burma, Ceylon, India and Pakistan (excluding Bambuseae). Dehra Dun, India: R. P. S. Galot, International Book Distributors.

Breidert D, 1978. Hoe 23408 36 e.c. (diclofop-methyl), a new post-em. selective grasskiller in cereals and broad-leaved crops. Proceedings of the Mediterranean Herbicide Symposium, Madrid, 1978. Madrid, Spain: Ministerio de Agricultura, 2:147-154

Catizone P; Viggiani P, 1980. Four years of research into Phalaris spp. infestation of wheat. Atti Giornate Fitopatologiche, Supplemento nr. 3:257-311

Chaudhary SA; Parker C; Kasasian L, 1981. Weeds of Central, Southern and Eastern Arabian Peninsula. Tropical Pest Management, 27(2):181-190.

Chhokar RS, 1998. Studies on the biology and control of isoproturon resistant Phalaris minor Retz. PhD Thesis. Hisar, India: CCS Haryana Agricultural University.

Cudney DW; Hill JE, 1979. The response of wheat grown with three population levels of canarygrass to various herbicide treatments. Proceedings of the Western Society of Weed Science, 32:55-56

Damanakes ME, 1982. Survey of grass weeds in wheat fields in central Greece. Zizaniologia, 1(1):23-27

Dhawan RS; Shubra Gupta, 2007. Variable response of malathion on isoproturon-resistant biotypes of Phalaris minor from Haryana and Punjab. Annals of Plant Protection Sciences, 15(2):537-539.

Dotham NF, 1986. Flora of Palestina. Part Four. Jerusalem, Israel: The Israel Academy of Science and Humanities.

Edgecombe WS, 1970. Weeds of Lebanon, 3rd Edition. Beirut, Lebanon: American University of Beirut, 42.

Gill HS; Walia US; Brar LS, 1978. Control of Phalaris minor Retz. and wild oats in wheat with new herbicides. Pesticides, 12(4):53-56

Govindra Singh; Singh VP, 2005. Compatibility of clodinafop-propargyl and fenoxaprop-P-ethyl with carfentrazone-ethyl, metsulfuron-methyl and 2, 4-D. Indian Journal of Weed Science, 37(1/2):1-5.

Groenigen JWvan; Kessel Cvan, 2002. Salinity-induced patterns of natural abundance carbon-13 and nitrogen-15 in plant and soil. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 66(2):489-498.

Holm LG; Pancho JV; Herberger JP; Plucknett DL, 1979. A geographical atlas of world weeds. New York, USA: John Wiley and Sons, 391 pp.

Hooker JD, 1982. Flora of British India. Vol II. Dehra Dun, India: Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh.

Malik RK; Samunder Singh, 1995. Littleseed canary grass (Phalaris minor) resistance to isoproturon in India. Weed Technology, 9(3):419-425

Mishra JS, 2008. Efficacy of metribuzin on weeds and yield of fieldpea (Pisum sativum). Indian Journal of Agricultural Sciences, 78(8):676-679.

Niknam SR; Moerkerk M; Cousens R, 2002. Weed seed contamination in cereal and pulse crops. 13th Australian Weeds Conference: weeds "threats now and forever?", Sheraton Perth Hotel, Perth, Western Australia, 8-13 September 2002: papers and proceedings, 59-62; 3 ref.

Parasher V; Singh OS, 1985. Mechanism of anoxia induced secondary dormancy in canary grass (Phalaris minor Retz.) and wild oat (Avena fatua L.). Seed Research, 13(2):91-97

Parham BEV; Healy AJ, 1985. Common Weeds in New Zealand. Wellington, New Zealand: P. D. Hasselberg.

Parker C, 1992. Weeds of Bhutan. Weeds of Bhutan., vi + 236 pp.

Ramesh Verma; Nepalia V; Kumawat SK, 2004. Influence of weed control and sulphur nutrition on weed dynamics and productivity of pea (Pisum sativum L.). Indian Journal of Weed Science, 36(3/4):285-286.

Saavedra M; Cuevas J; Mesa-Garcia J; Garcia-Torres L, 1989. Grassy weeds in winter cereals in Southern Spain. Crop Protection, 8(3):181-187

Saini JP; Angiras NN, 2005. Standardization of dose of sulfosulfuron (MON 37503) in controlling weeds of rainfed wheat (Triticum aestivum) under mid-hill conditions of Himachal Pradesh. Indian Journal of Agronomy, 50(1):41-43.

Samunder Singh, 2007. Role of management practices on control of isoproturon-resistant littleseed canarygrass (Phalaris minor) in India. Weed Technology ["Fighting back." Proceedings of the symposium on grass weed resistance.], 21(2):339-346.

Shad RA; Siddiqui SU, 1996. Problems associated with Phalaris minor and other grass weeds in India and Pakistan. Experimental Agriculture, 32(2):151-160; 33 ref.

Shukla V, 1996. Grasses of North-Eastern India. Jodhpur, India: Scientific Publishers.

Sidhu MK, 1991. Biology of Punjab weeds. Mohali, India: Anova Publications, 31-173.

Tal A; Zarka S; Rubin B, 1996. Fenoxaprop-P resistance in Phalaris minor conferred by an insensitive acetyl-coenzyme A carboxylase. Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology, 56(2):134-140; 16 ref.

Tret'yakov DI, 1988. New adventitious plant species in the Belorussian flora. Botanicheskii Zhurnal, 73(6):903-910; 38 ref.

Tripathi AK; Tiwari RB, 2007. Weed flora of rabi crops in Northern Hill Zone of Chhattisgarh. Advances in Plant Sciences, 20(1):179-180.

Tutin TG, 1980. Phalaris L. In Tutin TG, Heywood VH, Burges NA, Moore DM, Valentine DH, Walters SM, Webb DA, eds. Flora Europaea, Volume 5. Alismataceae to Orchidaceae Moncotyledones. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Yaduraju NT; Caseley JC; Drennan DSH, 1984. Studies on germination, emergence and growth of Phalaris spp. Proceedings EWRS 3rd Symposium on Mediterranean Weeds, Lisbon, Portugal, 447-454.

Distribution Maps

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