Blowfly shaped spikelets appear to float

Close up of spiklets while green

Mature spikelets are creamy brown

Ligule at base of leaf is a membrane

Briza minor (left) and Briza maxima ( right)

Scientific Name

Briza maxima L.

Common Names

blowfly grass, quaking grass


Mediterranean region



Distinguishing Characteristics

This is a slender, erect and hairless annual (living only one growth cycle) grass. It has few leaf blades and stands erect.

The leaves are generally paler green in colour than other common grasses and have a noticeable twist. These features are useful for distinguishing Briza as a seedling before the seed heads form.

The seed head/fruit (inflorescence) consists of up to 10 spikelets (resembling blowflys) on very fine stems (pedicels). Spikelets are oval in shape and can be up to 10 - 20 mm in length. Spikelets consist of overlapping layers and a seed is held within each layer. Fruit may be pale green to cream/pale brown depending on maturity. 

A node or knee-like structure is present on each stem of mature plants indicating that this is a grass. 


Other plants easily confused with this plant

Briza maxima and Briza minor are often found growing together and they generally flower and seed at the same time, in Spring.The leaves of both are similar. Briza minor is a smaller plant than Briza maxima. The fruit/spikelets will distinguish them easily from each other. Briza maxima has fewer larger spikelets than has Briza minor. Briza maxima spikelets are 10 to 20 mm in length, whereas Briza minor has spikelets 4-5 mm long. 

Sources & References

"Weeds - an illustrated botanical guide to weeds of Australia" by B. A. Auld and R. W. Medd

"Suburban and Environmental Weeds - an identification and information system - South-east Queensland (and northern New South Wales)

"Gardener's Companion to Weeds" by Suzanne Ermert and Leigh Clapp

"Plantnet FloraOnline"  (2005)


Prepared by Justin KY Chu, July 2005

Checked by IEWF, Oct 2005 

Checked by Barbara Wiecek, Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, June 2006