Creeping Meadow Foxtail (Arundinaceus)

The Creeping Meadow Foxtail (Arundinaceus) is generally described as a perennial graminoid. This is not native to the U.S. (United States) and has its most active growth period in the spring . The Creeping Meadow Foxtail (Arundinaceus) has green foliage and inconspicuous yellow flowers, with a moderate amount of conspicuous black fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the mid spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Creeping Meadow Foxtail (Arundinaceus) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Creeping Meadow Foxtail (Arundinaceus) will reach up to 3 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Creeping Meadow Foxtail (Arundinaceus) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have low vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -43°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Grazing/livestock/pasture: Creeping foxtail is very well suited for pastureland or hayland. Because it does not undergo dormancy during the summer, creeping foxtail produces high yields of palatable forage season long. Plants break winter dormancy early in spring, and leaves remain green and palatable even during the hottest months. Studies indicate that creeping foxtail yields equal or exceed those of other comparable grasses.

Creeping foxtail is palatable to all classes of livestock. Cattle show preference to creeping foxtail over other widely employed pasture grasses. In separate studies, cattle preferred creeping foxtail to smooth brome (Bromus inermis), reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinaceus) and tall wheatgrass (Thinopyrum ponticum). In another study, cattle preferred straw from seed production fields of creeping foxtail over thickspike wheatgrass (Elymus lanceolatus), western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), basin wildrye (Leymus cinereus) and others. It can be seeded in pure stands or with a legume.

This species produces numerous aggressive underground rhizomes. These contribute to long-lived stands and an ability to recover quickly from grazing.

Filter fields: Because of creeping foxtail’s tolerance to high levels of fertilizer, particularly nitrogen and water, it can be used in filter fields for liquid waste disposal. It can also be used in a variety of other water settings including sewage treatment, food processing and livestock waste removal programs. With suitable moisture, creeping foxtail can also be used as an excellent silt trap. This species is known to tolerate up to six inches of silt per single deposition.

Erosion control: Creeping foxtail’s vigorous rhizome production (up to 120 cm crown diameter/year) and water tolerance make it well suited to erosion control and stream bank stabilization. Creeping foxtail can tolerate both high water levels and periods of drought, it can be used on earthen dams where water levels fluctuate. It survives in a broad range of pH, making it suitable for mine spoils, saline seeps (tolerant to ECs of 12) bogs and acidic roadways.

Wildlife: All manner of wildlife benefit from the forage and cover provided by creeping foxtail. Elk and deer eat the succulent forage in the spring and fall. The tender spring growth also provides forage for geese and other waterfowl. Numerous species of birds use the dense growth for cover and nesting habitat. Creeping foxtail has been used for plantings around ponds, lakes, grassed waterways and other waterways.

General Characteristics

General: Grass Family (Poaceae). Creeping foxtail is a large, long-lived, rhizomatous, sod-forming, perennial grass introduced from Eurasia.

Culms are tall (5 to 12 dm) and stout (~8 mm). Cauline leaves are numerous, flat and green, mostly 6 to 8 mm (12), glabrous above and scabrous beneath. The membranous ligule is 1 to 5 mm long and is rounded to acute.

The inflorescence is a spike-like, cylindrical panicle, typically 4 to 10 cm long and around 8 mm thick, turning purplish or black with maturity. It has a very similar appearance to the seedheads of timothy, but creeping foxtail heads turn the dark colors described above with maturity and Timothy seedheads turn a brownish – buff color.

Individual spikelets are single flowered and urn-shaped (4 to 5 mm long, 1 to 1.5 mm wide). The glumes are fused basally and are strongly keeled with a ciliate margin, the hairs 1 to 2 mm. Lemmas are typically shorter than the glumes and may bear a straight to geniculate awn (1 to 2 mm) arising from below to slightly above mid-length. Anthers are usually purple but are occasionally yellow or orange.

Anthesis occurs early in the season. Seed maturation begins at the top of the inflorescence and proceeds downward. Spikelets disarticulate below the glumes with the spikelet falling as a single unit.

Creeping foxtail should not be confused with other grass species that share the common name foxtail. Creeping foxtail is a close relative of meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis) and can be distinguished by having broader leaves (8-12 mm vs. 4-8 mm) and a dark purplish inflorescence. There are also many weedy species that bear the name foxtail, i.e. foxtail barley (Hordeum jubatum) and green foxtail (Setaria viridis). These may occupy the same habitats as creeping foxtail, but bear little or no resemblance.

Required Growing Conditions

This species is native to the colder regions of Europe and Asia. It ranges naturally from the British Isles in the west to Siberia in the east going as far south as Turkey and Italy and possibly China.

Records indicate that creeping foxtail was introduced into the United States around the end of the 19th century. At the time, it was little used by farmers who lacked the specialized equipment to plant and harvest its small fluffy seeds. With the advent of more advanced machinery in the 1930’s and 40’s, it became more widely used in forage practices.

Presently, it is most commonly utilized throughout the Pacific Northwest, Intermountain West, Northern Great Plain States and western Canada. It is projected that creeping foxtail could be used as far east as the New England states.

For more information on distribution, please consult the plant profile page for this species on the PLANTS Website.

Adaptation Creeping foxtail is adapted to cold temperatures and wet conditions. It is extremely winter hardy. It can establish and survive in areas where frost-free periods average less than 30 days annually. Studies indicate creeping foxtail outperforms smooth brome on flooded permafrost soils in Alaska. It also grows well at a broad range of elevations (500-9000 ft), but grows best on middle to high elevation wet to semi-wet sites.

This species is well adapted to areas of high moisture typically too wet for good production of most forage grasses, i.e. brome (Bromus species) and orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata) and is a superior forage to other semi-wetland grasses, such as tall fescue and other wetland grasses, such as reed canarygrass, meadow foxtail and timothy. It usually occurs in areas receiving more than 18 inches of precipitation. It also grows readily along margins of ponds, lakes, bogs, ditches and in mountain meadows. It can withstand periodic flooding of 60 to 90 cm for up to 45 days. Some varieties are also somewhat drought tolerant, being able to survive in areas with widely fluctuating water levels and drought during later summer periods.

Creeping foxtail does well in a broad spectrum of soils provided there is sufficient available water. It can grow in sand, clay, peat and muck. It is moderately salt tolerant (up to 12 millimhos/cm) and tolerates both moderately acidic soils (pH 5.6 to 6.0) and slightly alkaline soils (pH 7.9 to 8.4).

Cultivation and Care

Creeping foxtail establishment techniques are similar to those for other forage grasses. For best results the seedbed should be weed free, moist and firmly packed. Follow seeding with a light harrowing or packing operation. Optimum seeding depth is 1/8 to 1/4 inch and no deeper than ½ inch.

Timing depends almost entirely on available moisture. Irrigated fields can be seeded in early to mid spring or late summer avoiding the hot mid summer period. Irrigated fall seedings can be successful as late as early to mid-September allowing for enough time (6 to 8 weeks) for seedling establishment before freezing temperatures. Where precipitation is required, seed when soil is moist but firm enough or frozen to support seeding equipment. Late fall dormant seedings (after October 20th in most areas), winter and very early spring seedings are most effective under non-irrigated conditions where seeds are not allowed to germinate until spring.

This species produces very light seed units (750,000 seeds/lb) which allow for low relative seeding rates for adequate stand establishment. It is recommended that a minimum seeding rate of 3 to 4 lb/acre is used for ease of handling and uniform distribution through seeding equipment . This rate provides 51 to 68 seed/ft2.

It is popular to dilute the seed with inert materials, i.e. rice hulls, cracked corn or other cracked grains. For rice hulls, cracked wheat or cracked barley, dilute 3-4 lb/acre seed with 2 bushel/acre dilutor, and set the drill to seed the equivalent of 2 bushels of barley per acre. For cracked corn reduce dilutor to 1 bushel/ acre.

When seeding with a legume, it is recommended that one plant in alternate rows. Studies conducted with ‘Lutana’ cicer milkvetch (Astragalus cicer) and ‘Eski’ sainfoin (Onobrychis viciaefolia) showed increases in yield over a four-year period when planted in alternate rows.

General Upkeep and Control

Young seedlings are small and weak. Growth is slow for the first 4 to 6 weeks even under irrigated conditions. Rhizomes can emerge as early as 8 weeks. With the emergence of rhizomes growth is rapid. With adequate soil moisture inflorescences may develop in mid to late summer, but first year plants typically do not produce seedheads, or when they do, there is not enough seed for a profitable harvest.

Under non-irrigated conditions, it is not uncommon to have difficulty determining stand establishment the first growing season. Stand success should not be determined until the second or third growing season under non-irrigated conditions.

Applications of commercial fertilizer are not required during the establishment period; however, creeping foxtail responds very favorably to applications of 50 to 60 lb/acre actual nitrogen once established. Creeping foxtail plants show little response to applications of potassium, phosphates and secondary elements.

When planted with a legume, adjust fertilizer rates according to desires: For more grass production increase nitrogen, for more legume production increase phosphorus and potassium.

Weeds can be controlled using standard herbicide practices, although weeds should cause few problems with adequate fertilizer.

Pests and Potential Problems Creeping foxtail has historically shown little damage from insects and other diseases; however, in some years leaf spot diseases have been recorded as a problem in Canada.

Seed and Plant Production Seed production practices for creeping foxtail are more involved and difficult than those of most other forage grasses. Harvest timing is critical for a good yield, and seed cleaning requires more time and equipment than for most other grass species. Stands should be planted in wide-spaced 36 to 48 inch rows, but rhizomes cause sod binding and row closing. This can be overcome by applying high levels of nitrogen and aggressive cultivation to maintain desired row culture.

During establishment, apply enough phosphorus for three years according to forage production rate. No nitrogen should be added until seedlings are established, or drill 50 lb/acre of 11-48-0 with the seed. Once seedlings are established apply 30 lb/acre N for dryland or 60 to 80 lb/acre N for irrigated fields.

Nitrogen application in the fall on established fields positively influences inflorescence size and number. Apply 100 to 150 lb/acre N each year. Studies have shown inflorescence production rose as nitrogen levels were increased up to 100 lb/acre actual N. After 150 lb/acre production tapered off as plants used more nitrogen for foliage than seed production. Seed yields with 100 lb/acre were as high as 570 lb/acre while yields of 350 lb/acre were achieved when no nitrogen was applied.

During establishment, enough water should be applied to get stands started. The soil surface should be kept moist to avoid crusting. In early September bring soil moisture up to field capacity. Established fields should be irrigated in spring through the boot stage. Soil moisture should be kept above 50% field capacity. Good soil moisture is necessary during the early phase of seed development to prevent moisture stress, but do not irrigate during flowering or seed ripening. After harvest irrigate to field capacity to promote vegetative production.

Since seed maturation is temperature dependent, different regions will be harvested at different times of year. For proper timing of harvest, attention must be paid to three indicators. (1) 75 percent or more of the seeds should be black. (2) 50 percent of the inflorescences have begun to shatter at the tip. (3) 75 percent of the stems are yellow up to 3 to 4 inches directly below the inflorescence. These three events often occur quickly over a three day period.

Plants are typically windrowed, dried (3 to 5 days) and picked up by a combine. Seed heads shatter readily. Hand harvested seeds yielded over 500 lb

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Graminoid
Growth Period Spring
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Introduced to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Mid Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Rhizomatous
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 3
Vegetative Spread Rapid
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Spring Summer
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -43
Soil Depth for Roots 12
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Slow
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5.5–8.4 pH
Precipitation Range 24–24 inches/yr
Planting Density 0–0 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 12
Minimum Frost-Free Days 90 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance High
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability High
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA