Alopecurus, which is commonly known as foxtail grass, is a genus of the grass family Poaceae. The name comes from the Greek word alopekouros, which means the tail of a fox. This name is reference to the shape of the grass panicle, which resembles the shape of a fox's tail.
There are around 35 species of grasses in the Poaceae family and most of these grasses are annuals or perennials. These grasses are mainly native to the temperate grasslands of Europe, Asia and Africa, but have now been naturalized to a large extent in other parts of the world. Some of the grass varieties are considered weeds, while other varieties have agricultural and ornamental importance.
Some common foxtail grass varieties are Alopecurus myosuroides, which is considered a weed, and Alopecurus pratensis, which is known as the Meadow Foxtail, the Field Meadow Foxtail or the Golden Foxtail. The pratensis variety is cultivated for hay and as an ornamental grass in gardens. In its dried form, it is also used in flower arrangements and bouquets.
These grasses grow in thick clumps and spread slowly, growing to be around 24 inches (60 cm) tall. They have erect stems and a yellowish green foliage with narrow leaf blades. The Alopecurus grass produces flowers in a cylindrical inflorescence in May and June. These grasses require a cool climate, an area of full sunlight and a fertile, moist soils; they do not do well in complete shade or in very dry soil.
When used as ornamental grass in gardens, the Golden foxtail or pratensis grass is often planted alongside other plants to make its beautiful yellow and green foliage stand out all the more better. It is also planted for vivid visual effect along the edges of woodlands. Given their high moisture requirement, special care should be taken to water these grasses frequently, especially in the summer months.
Many varieties of Alopecurus have been developed for agricultural purposes. These grasses are rich in nutrients and make an excellent feed for grazing animals both as a green pasture grass and when the grasses are dried to form hay. Pratensis grasses are propagated by seeds and are often planted alongside clover in pastures.