False oat-grass

False Oat-grass

©Philip Precey

False oat-grass

Scientific name: Arrhenatherum elatius
A fluffy-looking grass of rough grassland, roadside verges and disturbed ground, False oat-grass is very familiar and often overlooked; in fact, it can help to stabilise dunes and shelter small mammals.

Species information


Height: up to 1.5m

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


False oat-grass is a tall, fluffy-looking perennial of grasslands, roadside verges and disturbed ground. Perhaps one of the most common grasses of these often overlooked places, it may well be familiar as the grass that so many of us catch in our hands and absent-mindedly strip of its seeds as we walk along. But, in fact, it plays an important role in stabilising dunes and cliffs.
False oat-grass mainly flowers from May to September, but can continue until the first frosts.

How to identify

The loose flower heads of False oat-grass have groups of brownish, oval spikelets (containing the flowers) with bristles at their tips. The long stem often turns brown after flowering.



Did you know?

False oat-grass is one of a number of native grasses that are found on unimproved grasslands and make excellent shelter and nesting material for Field Voles. In turn, these grasslands become hunting grounds for Barn owls, which can be seen quartering the fields at dusk.

How people can help

Although they might not look especially wildlife-friendly, our roadside verges, railway cuttings and waste grounds can provide valuable habitats for all kinds of plants and animals. The Wildlife Trusts are involved in many projects to make these places as beneficial for wildlife as possible. We have a vision of a Living Landscape: a network of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.