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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Yellow foxtail  (Setaria pumila)

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Life stages of Yellow foxtail flower of yellow foxtail mature plant collar region with hairy ligule yellow foxtail seedling spikelets and florets

Yellow foxtail is a summer annual grass. In California, it is found in the central-western region, Central Valley, South Coast, Mojave Desert, southwestern Great Basin east of the Sierra Nevada, and low elevations of the eastern Klamath Ranges, Cascade Range, and Sierra Nevada, to an elevation of 3900 feet (1200 m). Yellow foxtail inhabits agricultural land and other disturbed areas. It is more frequently found in moist soil and is common in northern California. Yellow foxtail consists of a complex of many biotypes. The seeds are a valuable source of food for many bird species and livestock eat young plants.


Roadsides, ditch banks, fields, pastures, cropland, orchards, vineyards, gardens, turf, and other disturbed sites.


First leaves are usually parallel to the ground.

Mature plant

Yellow foxtail forms loose clumps or sometimes grows singly. Stems stand erect or bend at the base, and sometimes grow nearly prostrate. Stems are flattened in cross-section, branch at the base, and can reach 4 feet (1.3 m) tall. Leaf blades are about 2 to 12 inches (5–30 cm) long and most have a spiral twist. The upper leaf surface is hairless, except for long hairs at the bases and lower edges.

Collar region

The ligule is a fringe of hairs. There are no auricles. The edge of the sheath below the collar is hairless. Although similar to green foxtail, S. viridis, yellow foxtail does not have hairs on the leaf sheath margin below the collar.


Bloom takes place from June through December. Flower heads are spikelike and densely packed with flowers. Yellow to reddish needlelike awns extend from the flower head giving it a bristly appearance.


Reproduces by seed.

Related or similar plants

  • Green foxtail, Setaria viridis

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