Fox Tail


There are two genera of fox tail species - Alopecurus and Setaria. Together they fall into the Poaceae family and can be both annual and perennial. Setaria collectivelyis taller than the Alopecurus species.
Both genera spread by seed and the overall family prefers
fertile soil, but will grow in a wide range of soils.


They grow in tufts where the base is loose and the stems are close together.  Branches are loose at the top.


Weed leaves are flat with ligules, or small outgrowths, that are present on the stem at the point where the leaf rolls off.  A tongue or strap.


Leaves are randomly placed on the stem.  The flower head, or panicle, is either one bristly spikelet or a soft, bent shaped bow resembling a fox tail.

Some species can be considered weeds, others used as forage grass.


What is interesting about fox tail is that 

different species can be considered weeds, others used as forage 
grass, while others can be ornamental, or even used in flower bouquets.



Setaria Species:

This is sometimes called Bristle Grass. There are approximately 125 different types of weeds that fall into the Setaria species with about 40 of them residing in North America. Some are forage grasses, such as Plains Foxtail (S. macrostachya) and Foxtail millet (S. italica).


    The more common weeds we are familiar with are:

  • Two Giant Foxtail types, Setaria faberi, which is noxious and S. magna. These two species are interchangeably referred to as Giant and also Chinese millet.

    They are summer annuals whose seeds set in late summer into fall. When spring comes, so do their sprouts preferring more compacted soils with nitrogen and phosphorus. This annual is found growing frequently in corn field where crop yields are reduced due to it's competitive nature.

  • Yellow Foxtail (Setaria glauca) is a common weed perennial and grows up to 2 feet tall. Seeds are yellow in color and larger than those of Green foxtail.

  • Green Foxtail (Setaria viridis) grows up to 3 feet tall. Weed leaves are course without hair. Flower heads bow softly.

  • Although foxtail can be pleasant to look at the seeds spread quickly and it becomes invasive, let alone can be a hazard to pets. They all have a long stem with a bushy spear-like seed head on top. These spear-like spikes can transfer to animals causing tangles and even becoming lodged, possibly entering beneath the skin. Bristly Foxtail (S.verticillata) is especially known for this.


    Pull weed if it is in early stages. Hoeing but must do regularly. Depending on location consider an inorganic mulch like solarizing black plastic. When removed place organic mulch types on top.


    Because of the different foxtail common weeds, the most suggested method of extermination is a pre-emergent herbicide. Using a propane torch can also be effective, but always use caution.

    Depending on the foxtail, different type of post-emergents would be required. 



    **For a better understanding of herbicides view outline here.


Alopecurus Species:

This genus has approximately 35 species and are perennials that are native to Europe and Asia but have become naturalized throughout the world. Most are considered weeds and have dense, cylindrical, soft, full flower that resembles a fox tail.

  • The most common of this species is Meadow Foxtail which stands up to 3 feet tall and is a forage grass widely cultivated for hay.




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