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Description and Adaptation of Timothy (Phieum pratense)

Plant Characteristics

Timothy is a relatively short-lived perennial, a bunched grass with a shallow, compact and fibrous root system. It has erect flowering stems (culms) 20 to 40 inches high topped by a dense cylindrical spikelet inflorescence. Spikelets are one flowered but it is a prolific seed producer. Leaves vary in length from a few inches to about a foot. Timothy is different from most other grasses because of a basal internodal swelling of the stem and this can be used for identification.


Timothy is adapted to cool and humid climate. It is more cold resistant than most cultivated grasses but is not drought resistant. It is better suited to finer textured soils and even tolerates poorly drained soils but not wet or droughty soils. It produces an excellent first cutting each year, but tends to be summer dormant if temperatures exceed a 770F mean temperature. It is a good companion grass for legumes but will not stand close grazing or trampling, and survives poorly in alfalfa mixtures harvested under 3-cut or 4-cut systems.

Factsheets in this series were prepared by Stephen Herbert, Masoud Hashemi, Carrie Chickering-Sears, and Sarah Weis in collaboration with Ken Miller, Jacqui Carlevale, Katie Campbell-Nelson, and Zack Zenk.

This publication has been funded in part by Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources in a grant to the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation, Inc. and by Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection, s319 Program.