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Photo Credit:  Steve Dewey, Utah State University, retrieved from (Image Number: 1459334), use under CC BY 3.0 US, modified from the original

Common Name: Medusahead

Scientific Name: Taeniatherum caput-medusae

Habitat: dry grassland, roadsides, farmland, disturbed areas

Provincial Designation: Prohibited Noxious

Prohibited Noxious weeds are plant species designated in the Alberta Weed Control Act. Prohibited noxious weeds must be destroyed when found, meaning all growing parts need to be killed or the plant's reproductive mechanisms need to be rendered non-viable.


Medusahead is a grass species native to the Mediterranean region of Europe. It was likely introduced to North America by accident.

Legislated Because

Medusahead out-competes native species and forms dense populations. It forms a dense layer of litter (dead plant material) that prevents germination of seeds from other species.


This grass grows 25-50 cm tall and has very distinctive flowering spikes. They are 1-5 cm long and have very long awns on the seeds that are up to 10 cm long (awns - hair-like or bristle-like extension on a larger part of the plant).

The spikes stay green longer than most of the other grasses. The awns become twisted when they dry, giving the grass its name. Another common name is “medusahead wildrye”.

Medusahead grows in dry and open areas and can be found together with Downy brome.

Learn More About This Species

See Fact Sheets - Alberta Invasive Species Council

For More Information

Weed Identification


In Edmonton: 311

Outside Edmonton: 780-442-5311


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