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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Foxtails - Green/Giant/Yellow

There are 3 different types of foxtails found commonly in Ontario: Green, Yellow, and Giant.

Scientific Names: Green foxtail, Setaria viridis (L.) Beauv.; Giant foxtail, Setaria faberii Herrm.; Yellow foxtail, Setaria glauca (L.) Beauv.

Other Names

Green Foxtail Giant Foxtail Yellow Foxtail
  • Sétaire verte
  • Bottle brush
  • Bottle grass
  • Bristle grass
  • Foxtail millet
  • Millet
  • Pigeon grass
  • Wild millet
  • Mil sauvage
  • Sétaire géante
  • Sétaire de Faber
  • Sétaire glauque
  • Bottle brush
  • Bottle grass
  • Bristle grass
  • Millet
  • Pigeon grass
  • Wild millet
  • Sétaire jaune
  • Foin sauvage
  • Mil sauvage

Family: Grass Family (Gramineae)

General Description: Annual, reproducing only by seed.

Habitat

Green Foxtail Giant Foxtail Yellow Foxtail
  • Very common and widespread throughout all agricultural regions of Ontario
  • Grows well in all soil textures and occurs in cultivated lands, waste places, roadsides, gardens and occasionally lawns
  • Native to China, recently introduced from the USA
  • Becoming abundant in fields and waste places in southern and eastern Ontario
  • Occurs throughout the agricultural regions of Ontario

Seedlings

Green Foxtail Giant Foxtail Yellow Foxtail
  • Looks hairless but hairs are present in the margins
  • New leaves appear rolled up on emergence
  • Hairs on the upper surface and margins of the leaves
  • New leaves appear rolled up on emergence
  • Hairless until the 3rd leaf stage
  • New leaves appear rolled up on emergence

Stems

Green Foxtail Giant Foxtail Yellow Foxtail
  • Erect or spreading
  • 10- 100 cm (4- 40 in.) or taller
  • Usually round in cross-section; can be flattened
  • Up to 2 m (6.5 ft) high
  • Similar to green foxtail

Leaves

Green Foxtail Giant Foxtail Yellow Foxtail
  • Upper leaf blades and sheaths mostly without hair
  • Margins and surface of blades rough with very find barbs
  • Leaf sheath split with overlapping margins, fringed with a band or short hair
  • Ligule a fringe of hair
  • No auricles
  • Leaf sheaths mostly smooth; blades finely hairy on the upper surface
  • Hairy along the margins
  • Ligule a dense band of hairs
  • No auricles
  • A few prominent, silky, kinky hairs on the upper surface of the leaf blade just near the stem
  • Leaf sheaths split, their margins smooth, green or slightly membranous and transparent
  • Ligule a fringe of hair
  • No auricles

Flowers

Green Foxtail Giant Foxtail Yellow Foxtail
  • Inflorescence: very dense spike 1- 15 cm (2/5- 6 in.) long and 0.6- 0.2 cm (1/4- 4/5 in.) wide; usually straight and erect, rarely somewhat curved; covered with short green to slightly purplish bristles
  • Spikelets: borne singly at the ends of the tiny branches; 2.5- 2.7 cm (1/10 in.) long; 1.0- 1.1 mm (1/25 in.) wide
  • Seeds: 1.8- 2.0 mm (1/14- 1/12 in.) long; 0.9- 1.0 mm (1/25 in.) wide; grey-brown with 5 parallel beige veins
  • Flowers from August to September
  • Inflorescence: dense, spike-like, erect or somewhat curved; 4.5- 17 cm (1 4/5- 6 7/10 in.) long by 1.5- 3 cm (3/5- 1 1/5 in.) thick; surrounded by light yellowish-green awn-like bristles
  • Spikelets: 1.5- 3 mm (1/16- 1/8 in.) long
  • Seeds: light green; abundantly cross-wrinkled
  • Flowers from late July to October
  • Inflorescence: 2- 10 cm (4/5- 4 in.) long: covered with numerous yellow to orange bristles with forward-pointing barbs
  • Seeds: slightly larger than green foxtail; more prominently cross-ridged; yellowish
  • Flowers from July to August

Often Confused With
Fall Panicum (Distinguished by the location of hairs; fall panicum- lower surface of leaf blade; foxtails- upper surface or no hairs)

Yellow, giant, and green foxtail, L-R

Green foxtail

Green foxtail

A. Giant foxtail, B. Giant and freen FT heads

Green foxtail, A, B&C. Bristly foxtail, D,E &F.

Yellow foxtail

Yellow foxtail A. Plant. B. Leaf-base. C. Spike.Click to enlarge.