Parapholis incurva

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaPoaceaeParapholisParapholis incurva


An annual of bare places by the sea, including gravelly mud banks, shingle ridges, rock ledges and cliff-tops, and the uppermost parts of saltmarshes; also in artificial habitats such as sea walls and wooden mooring stays. There are rare occurrences around docks and inland as a wool and ballast alien. Lowland.



World Distribution

Mediterranean-Atlantic element.

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 9

Moisture (Ellenberg): 6

Reaction (Ellenberg): 7

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 4

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 4

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 4.4

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16.4

Annual Precipitation (mm): 709

Height (cm): 10

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary

Therophyte (annual land plant)



Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 109

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 1

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 5

Atlas Change Index: 0.09

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Parapholis incurva (L.) C.E. Hubb.

Curved hard-grass

Status: scarce


Although confined to the coastal fringe, this delicate little grass occurs in a fairly wide range of habitats, including cliff-tops, sea-walls and on bare mud and shingle. It is, however, a plant most commonly associated with open gravelly mud and muddy shingle ridges above the high tide level, and tends to avoid the upper parts of saltmarshes where its congener P. strigosa is found. It has a strong preference for well-drained, saline soils. In many of its sites it is the only species present, but in others associates range from Spergularia marina in muddy habitats to Rumex crispus and Silene maritima on shingle.

P. incurva is an annual, reproducing entirely by seed. Small groups of plants, or even single plants, often appear in isolated situations, suggesting that the seeds are dispersed over long distances (or that they persist for several years in the seed bank). The species can sometimes occur in great abundance, but populations are known to vary greatly in size from year to year.

The distribution of P. incurva appears to be fairly stable, although it is likely to have been consistently under-recorded and is easily overlooked. 

It is a western European and Mediterranean species, reaching its northern limit in Britain and Ireland.


A. J. Gray

Atlas text references

Atlas (404d)
Akeroyd JR
1984.  Parapholis incurva (L.) C. E. Hubbard – a grass overlooked in Ireland. Irish Naturalists' Journal. 21:228-230.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.