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Timothy-grass: Wikis


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Habitus, ssp. pratense
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Genus: Phleum
Species: P. pratense
Binomial name
Phleum pratense

Timothy-grass[1] (Phleum pratense), is an abundant perennial grass native to most of Europe except for the Mediterranean region. It grows to 50–150 cm tall, with leaves up to 45 cm long and 1 cm broad. The flowerhead is 7–15 cm long and 8–10 mm broad, with densely packed spikelets.

Timothy-grass can be confused with Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis) and Purple-stem Cat's-tail (Phleum phleoides).


There are two subspecies:

  • Phleum pratense subsp. pratense. Larger, to 150 cm tall. Widespread.
  • Phleum pratense subsp. bertolonii. Smaller, to 70 cm tall. Calcareous grassland.

Cultivation and uses

Timothy-grass was unintentionally introduced to North America by early settlers, and was first described in 1711 by John Herd from plants growing in New Hampshire. Herd named the grass "herd grass" but a farmer named Timothy Hanson began to promote cultivation of it as a hay about 1720, and the grass has been known by its present name since then. Timothy has now become naturalized throughout most of the US and Canada.

It is commonly grown for cattle feed and, in particular, as hay for horses. It is relatively high in fibre, especially when cut late. It is considered part of the standard mix for grass hay and provides quality nutrition for horses. Timothy Hay is a staple food for domestic pet rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and degus, often making up the bulk of their diet. Oxbow Animal Health was the first company to retail a timothy hay for small exotic animals in 1996. The caterpillars of some Lepidoptera use it as a foodplant, e.g. the Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola). It also grows in roadsides and abandoned fields but generally requires nutrient-rich soils.

Its pollen is a common allergen; It has recently been used in small amounts as part of a new hay fever vaccine Grazax, which is designed to recondition the body's immune system so it no longer responds to pollen.

Plants persist through the winter. Dead, straw-colored flowering stems may persist, but only for a short time, and are recognized by the distinctive spike-like inflorescence.


  1. ^ Clause BS 7370-5

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