Polypogon monspeliensis

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaPoaceaePolypogonPolypogon monspeliensis


An annual of barish places by the sea, in damp, cattle-trodden grazing marshes, at the edges of dried-up brackish pools and ditches, and in the uppermost parts of saltmarshes. Also around docks and inland as a casual from wool, bird-seed and other sources. Lowland.



World Distribution

Mediterranean-Atlantic element; widely naturalised outside its native range.

© G. Toone, IWNHAS

Broad Habitats

Neutral grassland (includes coarse Arrhenatherum grassland)

Light (Ellenberg): 8

Moisture (Ellenberg): 8

Reaction (Ellenberg): 7

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 6

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 3

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 4.3

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16.6

Annual Precipitation (mm): 661

Height (cm): 80

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary

Therophyte (annual land plant)



Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 45

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: 0.6

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Polypogon monspeliensis (L.) Desf.

Annual beard-grass

Status: scarce


P. monspeliensis occurs with several other grasses, such as Hordeum marinum, Puccinellia distans, P. fasciculata and P. rupestris, on open, frequently saline, coastal soils. Typical habitats include the edges of pools, creeks or recently cleared ditches, where it often appears with Spergularia marina; bare pitches along the berms and counter dykes behind sea walls; and open parts of cattle-poached marshland where, depending on the salinity levels, it may be found with Agrostis stolonifera (with which it occasionally hybridises), Aster tripolium, Bolboschoenus maritimus, Juncus gerardii, Salicornia species and Ranunculus sceleratus. It is sometimes found inland on waste ground and refuse lips, where it is often introduced in bird-seed mixtures. It is confined to the lowlands.

P. monspeliensis is an inbreeding annual, reproducing entirely by seed which may be spread by cattle. The seed may survive for many years in the soil as evidenced by the sudden reappearance of populations at, or near to, former known sites, often when new sea walls or ditches are constructed. It requires bare ground for germination and successful seedling establishment.

The species is probably declining as a result of widespread changes including the conversion of coastal pasture to arable, alterations in the management of remaining pasture and the draining and filling-in of brackish ditches and pools. It appears not to survive competition with perennial grasses, and so it may quickly disappear from drained and reseeded pastures. 

P. monspeliensis is widespread in Europe, not-them and southern Africa and Asia, and introduced into North America (where it has spread rapidly in some areas). In Europe it reaches its northern limit in Britain.


A. J. Gray

Atlas text references

Atlas (399c)
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.