Alopecurus geniculatus


Alopecurus: From the Greek alopekouros, meaning grass like a fox's tail.
geniculatus: From the Latin geniculum 'knee', meaning 'on bended knee', often used in reference to plants with stems bent on an angle

Common Name(s)

kneed foxtail


Alopecurus geniculatus L.



Brief Description

A sprawling mat-forming grass with creeping stems, often floating on water, with dense spiked flowerheads.

Flora Category

Vascular - Exotic

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class



Common throughout.


Wide variety of wetland and aquatic habitats, rare in dry gravelly waste areas.


Sprawling grass rooting at the nodes, 15-45 cm tall. Can form floating mats. Stems ascending from knee-like bends at the nodes. Leaf blade 4-12 cm long and 1.5-2.5 mm wide with an acute tip. Ligule (1.5)-2-4.5 mm long,membranous. The flower heads are upright spikes 2-4 cm long comprised of densely crowded conspicuously awned spikelets.

Similar Taxa

There are several similar sprawling wetland/aquatic grasses. Paspalum distichum has a shorter ligule and paired flower heads, Glyceria species have a boat-shaped leaf tip and cross-veins on the leaf sheath and Agrostis stolonifera has a more open flower head.


Spring and summer

Flower Colours



Summer to Autumn

Year Naturalised




Reason for Introduction

Pasture species.

Control Techniques

Can be controlled manually, mechanically or herbicidally depending on situation.

Life Cycle and Dispersal

Seed dispersed by water and contaminated machinery.


Factsheet prepared by Paul Champion and Deborah Hofstra (NIWA).

References and further reading

Edgar E. and H. Connor. 2000. Flora of New Zealand. Volume 5. Manaaki Whenua Press: Lincoln, New Zealand.

Champion et al (2012). Freshwater Pests of New Zealand.  NIWA publication. http://www.niwa.co.nz/freshwater-and-estuaries/management-tools/identification-guides-and-fact-sheets/freshwater-pest-species

Johnson PN, Brooke PA (1989).  Wetland plants in New Zealand.   DSIR Field Guide, DSIR Publishing, Wellington. 319pp.

This page last updated on 21 Aug 2013