Arrhenatherum elatius

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaPoaceaeArrhenatherumArrhenatherum elatius


A tufted perennial grass found in a very wide range of neutral to base-rich habitats. It is frequent in grasslands, but is especially common on road verges, hedge banks, and river banks. It is an important stabiliser of limestone scree, and a coloniser of bare, muddy, calcareous cliffs and maritime shingle. Var. bulbosum is widely distributed on roadside banks and as an arable weed on light soils. 0-550 m (E. Perth).



World Distribution

European Temperate element; widely naturalised outside its native range.

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 7

Moisture (Ellenberg): 5

Reaction (Ellenberg): 7

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 7

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.6

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 14.5

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1089

Height (cm): 150

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Tussock-forming graminoid, may slowly spread

Clonality - secondary

Detaching ramets at or below ground

Comment on Clonality

Tuberous form is 'onion couch' var. bulbosum

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 2678

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 958

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 13

Atlas Change Index: 0.37

Weighted Changed Factor: -2

Weighted Change Factor Confidence (90%)


JNCC Designations


Atlas text references

Atlas (394a)
Grime JP, Hodgson JG, Hunt R
1988.  Comparative Plant Ecology.
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Meusel H, Jäger E, Weinert E
1965.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols.
Pfitzenmeyer CDC
1962.  Biological Flora of the British Isles. No. 81. Arrhenatherum elatius (L.) J. & C. Presl. Journal of Ecology. 50:235-245.