Phleum pratense (Timothy)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Poaceae (Grass)
Life cycle:perennial
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; disturbed soil; fields woodland edges, roadsides, embankments, vacant lots
Fruiting season:June - August
Plant height:12 to 40 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowering spike] Single, slender spike 2 to 4 inches long, occasionally up to 6 inches long, at the top of the stem. Densely crowded on the spike are single spikelets (flower clusters), each containing a single flower. The glumes (pair of bracts at the base of a spikelet) are equal in length, generally oblong, flat or rounded at the top, keeled (ridged) along the back with long spreading hairs along the keel and short, fine hairs on the edges. At the tip of the keel is an awn 1/3 to ½ the length of the glume body. Glumes are 3 to 4 mm long including the awn. The lemma (bract surrounding the flower) is much shorter than the glume, broadly oval, distinctly veined with a few teeth at the tip end. The short, pale yellow to creamy white stamens and feathery styles poke out the top of the spikelet.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate

[photo of leaves] 5 or 6 leaves are alternately arranged on the stem, mostly flat, and hairless. Lower leaves are up to 20 inches long, up to 1/3 inch wide, and ascending to flopping, becoming shorter and more erect as they ascend the stem with the uppermost leaves as little as 4 inches long.

[photo of sheath, ligule and node] The sheath is open with a distict “V” at the front and a narrow band of white edging. The ligule (membrane where the leaf joins the sheath) is white and 2 to 5 mm long, ragged along the top, and joins the edging of the sheath. Nodes are smooth. The culm (stem) is mostly erect and unbranched, and hairless but rough textured near the spike. Plants form loose to dense clumps but may be single.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of mature spikelets] The spikelets turn pale tan when mature, the lemma and seed falling off leaving the glumes behind, but the glumes typically fall off soon after. Seed is generally oval and about 1 mm long.


Timothy was an agricultural crop from Europe that escaped cultivation and is now widespread across North America. It generates large amounts of pollen and is a bane for allergy sufferers during its long flowering period. There are 2 subspecies (or varieties, depending on the reference), though they do not appear to be universally recognized and there is little documented on distinguishing characteristics; subsp. pratense is found in Minnesota and the rest of North America.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Tanya Beyer Hovi - Sandy Township, St. Louis County
on: 2022-06-10 12:15:44

Our pastures this year are full of a grass that looks like either a timothy or alopecura, but I think most like timothy. The heads are in flower right now in early June and are lavender with florets. None of the photos or descriptions for these grasses describe florets of that color--very beautiful. I wonder if anyone knows what I am looking at.

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