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Meadowmat wildflower species: Small leaved timothy

Small Leaved Timothy

Small leaved Timothy (Phleum bertolonii) is a type of long grass that typically grows to around 28” tall (around 71cm). It is related to Phleum pratensis, which is a larger subspecies of the Phleum grass type, growing to around 59” (around 150cm). If its name is unfamiliar, its appearance certainly won’t be, since it is a common native species of grass in the UK and many parts of Europe. It is also an established native species of North America, having been introduced by British settlers in the 1600s.

ladybird on dried seedhead of small leaved timothy grass

A ladybird rests on the cut and dried seedhead of Small Leaved Timothy Grass in Traditional Meadowmat

Commonly known as cat’s tail grass, it has a very slender stem, at the top of which is a short, tapering, bushy flower head that turns into closely-bunched grass seeds after flowering. The flower head in bloom has three tiny, pale purple stamen per floret, and two stigma per floret that give the head a ‘feathery’ appearance. It has long, rolled leaves that start close to the base and these are about 0.5” (1.3cm) broad, but the thin stem far outgrows the height of the leaves and so these can be difficult to spot among other grasses growing close by.

It flowers throughout spring and summer (from early June to late September) and it is a hardy grass, surviving in even the poorest quality, sandy or dry soils.

Historical uses for Small Leaved Timothy

The small leaved Timothy is believed to be so named in honour of the farmer who is thought to have introduced the grass to large parts of America, and who was largely responsible for it becoming commonly used across the world as a rich source of fodder for cattle and hay for horses from the 1900s onwards. It is now also commonly included in feed mixes for a variety of pets, such as rabbits and guineapigs.

How native grasses enhance biodiversity

Grasses are a vital part of the eco-system because they attract such a wide range of insects including butterflies and moths – which, in turn, attract birds. The small leaved Timothy is known to be a food of caterpillars (particularly of Lepidoptera) and the Essex Skipper and Small Skipper butterflies. It is commonly found along motorway verges and hedgerows but it can make an attractive addition to a wildflower meadow or part of a wildflower feature in a garden.

Bringing biodiversity to your garden

Meadowmat provides pre-seeded turf that includes a wide range of wildflowers and grasses, including the small-leaved Timothy, and as such provides a good mix of plants that are attractive to a great variety of fauna. Any garden can be transformed with Meadowmat rolls to include an area of natural beauty that attracts pollinating insects (and birds), however large or small the available space.

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