Arrhenatherum elatius

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaPoaceaeArrhenatherumArrhenatherum elatius


A tufted perennial grass found in a very wide range of neutral to base-rich habitats. It is frequent in grasslands, but is especially common on road verges, hedge banks, and river banks. It is an important stabiliser of limestone scree, and a coloniser of bare, muddy, calcareous cliffs and maritime shingle. Var. bulbosum is widely distributed on roadside banks and as an arable weed on light soils. 0-550 m (E. Perth).



World Distribution

European Temperate element; widely naturalised outside its native range.

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 7

Moisture (Ellenberg): 5

Reaction (Ellenberg): 7

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 7


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.6

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 14.5

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1089

Life form information

Height (cm): 150

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Tussock-forming graminoid, may slowly spread

Clonality - secondary

Detaching ramets at or below ground

Comment on Clonality

Tuberous form is 'onion couch' var. bulbosum

Distribution information

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 2678

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 958

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 13

Atlas Change Index: 0.37

Weighted Changed Factor: -2

Weighted Change Factor Confidence (90%)


Distribution information

JNCC Designations


PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Atlas text references

Atlas (394a)
Grime JP, Hodgson JG, Hunt R
1988.  Comparative Plant Ecology.
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Meusel H, Jäger E, Weinert E
1965.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols.
Pfitzenmeyer CDC
1962.  Biological Flora of the British Isles. No. 81. Arrhenatherum elatius (L.) J. & C. Presl. Journal of Ecology. 50:235-245.