Home Grasses Timothy Grass: A Comprehensive Guide to Identification, Control, and Benefits

Timothy Grass: A Comprehensive Guide to Identification, Control, and Benefits

by Gregory
4 minutes read

Timothy Grass: A Comprehensive Guide

What is Timothy Grass?

Timothy grass, scientifically known as Phleum pratense, is a hardy grass species that has been widely cultivated for centuries. It is commonly found in pastures, where it serves as a nutritious grazing ground for livestock. Timothy grass is also grown commercially as a fodder crop, providing a valuable source of hay for animals.

Common Names and Origins

Timothy grass has several common names, including cat’s tail grass and meadow cat’s tail. These names derive from the distinctive appearance of its seed heads, which resemble the tail of a cat. Originating in Europe, Timothy grass has spread to various regions worldwide, including North America, where it was introduced by the agriculturist Timothy Hansen in the early 18th century.

Identifying Timothy Grass

Timothy grass is characterized by its clump-forming growth habit and tall, narrow seed heads that can reach heights of up to 1 meter. The seed heads appear from early to mid-summer and have a cylindrical shape. The leaves of Timothy grass are long and narrow, with a grayish-green or light green color. They have rough edges and a slight twist to their shape. Mature plants develop small bulbs at the bases of the stems.

Timothy Grass and Hay Fever

Timothy grass pollen is a major allergen and one of the primary triggers of hay fever. The pollen is released during the summer months and can cause symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes. Individuals who suffer from hay fever may need to take precautions to avoid exposure to Timothy grass during peak pollen season.

Controlling Timothy Grass

Timothy grass is a vigorous grower and can quickly spread in gardens and meadows. If you wish to control its growth, you can employ several methods:

  • Yellow Rattle: Yellow rattle is a semi-parasitic plant that inhibits the growth of grass without killing it. By introducing yellow rattle into your garden meadow, you can reduce the vigor of Timothy grass.

  • Regular Cutting or Mowing: Regularly cutting or mowing Timothy grass will prevent it from flowering and producing pollen. This method is particularly effective for hay fever sufferers who want to minimize their exposure to allergens.

  • Digging Out Roots: In borders, you can manually dig out Timothy grass roots. Be sure to remove all the tiny bulb-like bases of the roots to prevent regrowth. Avoid putting the roots on a compost heap, as they may not be killed and could continue to grow. Instead, dispose of them in your green waste collection or bag them up in compost sacks and leave them to rot down for at least a year.

Benefits of Timothy Grass

Despite its potential as an allergen, Timothy grass also offers several benefits:

  • Wildlife Habitat: Timothy grass attracts a wide range of wildlife, including caterpillars of several moth species. By providing a habitat for these creatures, Timothy grass contributes to the biodiversity of your garden.

  • Nutritional Value: Timothy grass hay is a nutritious food source for animals, providing essential nutrients such as protein, fiber, and vitamins. It is a particularly valuable feed for horses and other livestock.

  • Environmental Benefits: Timothy grass helps to prevent soil erosion and improve soil fertility. It also absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, contributing to the fight against climate change.


Timothy grass is a versatile and widely cultivated grass species with both benefits and drawbacks. Understanding its characteristics, growth habits, and potential impact on hay fever sufferers is essential for making informed decisions about its management in your garden or pasture. By employing appropriate control methods and appreciating its ecological value, you can harness the benefits of Timothy grass while minimizing its potential as an allergen.

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