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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

09 October, 2016

Phleum pratense: Timothy grass

There are a number of grass species with tightly packed flower spikes and they are commonly known as either foxtails and catstails for fairly obvious reasons! Timothy grass (Phleum pratense) is a catstail and is one of the most common of this group.
Timothy is also the tallest of these grasses and can grow to 1.5 metres (nearly five feet!) tall but normally, in my experience, about 1 metre is the usual height but this is still taller than similar species. The long cylindrical flower head can be about six inches long and this too sets it apart from its relatives. The flower heads are usually a greyish green in colour and are often at their best in June and July. The plant does have leaves, long thin pointed ones but it is the flower head that catches the eye.
Common in grassy places on all sorts of soils, and sometimes sown in pasture, it is widespread and may be encountered almost anywhere in Dorset
I was intrigued to know why it is called Timothy grass and the ever reliable Wikipedia comes to the rescue and suggests this is probably because an American farmer, Timothy Hanson, recommended the grass to British farmers in the mid 18th century and it subsequently became a major source of hay and cattle fodder .
Phleum pratense: Timothy grass