Alopecurus aequalis

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaPoaceaeAlopecurusAlopecurus aequalis


An annual, most frequent on drying mud but found in a wide variety of habitats associated with freshwater, including the margins of ponds, ditches, reservoirs, turloughs and flooded gravel-pits. It has also recently been found as a weed in aquatic garden centres. Lowland.



World Distribution

Circumpolar Boreo-temperate element.

© K.J. Walker, BSBI

Broad Habitats

Standing water and canals

Light (Ellenberg): 8

Moisture (Ellenberg): 9

Reaction (Ellenberg): 4

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 7

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.5

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16

Annual Precipitation (mm): 717

Height (cm): 40

Perennation - primary


Perennation - secondary


Life Form - primary

Therophyte (annual land plant)

Life Form - secondary


Comment on Life Form

Own Mountford says normally annual



Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 298

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 3

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 1

Atlas Change Index: -0.33

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Alopecurus aequalis Sobol.

Orange foxtail

Status: not scarce 

This species is found on the margins of shallow ponds, of gravel pits and of reservoirs, always in the proximity of fresh water. It is not often seen in shallow water but occurs on mud as the water level recedes. In some of the Breckland meres, where the water level fluctuates markedly from year to year, it can occur in great abundance. Its associates in these meres include Agrostis stolonifera, Chenopodium rubrum, Juncus articulatus, Mentha aquatica, Myosoton aquaticum, Oenanthe aquatica, Persicaria amphibia, Phalaris arundinacea, Potentilla anserina, Rorippa amphibia, R. palustris, Rumex maritimus and Sagina nodosa.

It is an annual plant, which reproduces by seed. Culms ascend from a decumbent base and root at the nodes, a habit which adds to the density of the colony. Populations vary greatly in number from year to year, being largest when water levels are low and much mud is exposed. In years of high water level the plant may only be present as dormant seed.

In the long term this species may be considered under threat. Old ponds have been reclaimed and many wet habitats have been drained. Suitable remaining habitats are in danger of pollution. It has, however, recently been seen as a weed in a number of aquatic garden centres and it might therefore be expected to spread into garden ponds. 

This is a widespread species which occurs in the boreal and temperate zones throughout the northern hemisphere. In Europe it is rare in the oceanic western fringe and virtually absent from the Mediterranean region.


P. J. O. Trist

Atlas text references

Atlas (402b)
Goodwillie (1999b)
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.