Arrhenatherum elatius

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Arrhenatherum elatius
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Pooideae
Genus: Arrhenatherum
A. elatius
Binomial name
Arrhenatherum elatius
(L.) P.Beauv. ex J.Presl & C.Presl, 1819

Arrhenatherum elatius is a species of flowering plant in the grass family Poaceae, commonly known as bulbous oat grass,[1] false oat-grass, tall oat-grass, tall meadow oat, onion couch and tuber oat-grass. It is native to Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa.[2] This bunchgrass is often used as an ornamental grass and is sometimes marketed as "cat grass".[citation needed]

It is native to Europe but can be found elsewhere as an introduced species. It is found especially in prairies, at the side of roads and in uncultivated fields. The bulbous subspecies can be a weed of arable land. It is palatable grass for livestock and is used both as forage (pasture) and fodder (hay and silage).


This coarse grass can grow to 150 centimeters (59 in) tall. The leaves are bright green, broad, slightly hairy, and rough. The ligule is 3 centimeters (1.2 in) long and smooth edged. The panicle is up to 30 centimeters (12 in), and the bunched spikelets have projecting and angled awns up to 17 millimeters (0.67 in) long, green or purplish. The panicles often remain into winter.[3] The spikelets are oblong or gaping. It flowers from June to September. The roots are yellow.[4]

Two subspecies have been described:

  • Arrhenatherum elatius subsp. elatius, the more common variety.
  • Arrhenatherum elatius subsp. bulbosum (also called Arrhenatherum tuberosum), onion couch or tuber oat-grass, distinguished by the presence of corms at the base of the stem, by which it propagates. It occurs in vegetated shingle and arable land.[5]: 1065 


Arrhenatherum elatius is a principal species in two UK National Vegetation Classification habitat communities: the very widespread MG1 (Arrhenatherum elatius grassland) and the much rarer MG2 (Arrhenatherum elatius - Filipendula ulmaria tall-herb grassland). This means that it can be found with species such as Dactylis glomerata (also known as cock's-foot and orchard grass), and Filipendula ulmaria (also known as meadow-sweet).

It is found on road verges, along hedges and riverbanks.

It can colonise and stabilise limestone scree, bare calcareous cliffs, maritime shingle and coastal dunes.


  1. ^ "Arrhenatherum elatius". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
  2. ^ "Arrhenatherum elatius (L.) P.Beauv. ex J.Presl & C.Presl". Plants of the World Online. Kew Science. Retrieved 9 June 2020.
  3. ^ BSBI Description Archived 2011-07-17 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 10 December 2010.
  4. ^ Grasses by C E Hubbard, 1978, published by Penguin books
  5. ^ Stace, C. A. (2019). New Flora of the British Isles (Fourth ed.). Middlewood Green, Suffolk, U.K.: C & M Floristics. ISBN 978-1-5272-2630-2.

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