Plant in situ

Briza minor to left and Briza maxima to right

Open sheath and node/knee present


Curled leaves

Ligule is white membrane where leaf meets stem 

Ligule is long, broad, round and hairless

Spikelets are layered

Opening inflorescence

Fully open/spread inflorescence

Scientific Name

Briza minor L.



Common Names

shivery grass, little or lesser quaking grass


Mediterranean region




Distinguishing Characteristics

This is a small annual (living through only 1 growing season) usual found only in Spring/early Summer. It is easily distinguished from other grasses by its distinctive seed head (inflorescence) which is branched and open (open panicle). The fruit or spikelets are quite small and are held on very fine branches making the spikelets appear to float above the grass. 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. 

Leaf blades are long and thin (linear), tapering at the tip.

Ligule (visible at the stem when grass leaf is gently pulled back from the stem) is long, broad and rounded.

Leaves are slightly rough to touch along the margins.

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

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

The leaves and spikelets of this grass and Briza maxima are similar however Briza maxima is a much larger in all respects. Briza major has fewer larger spiklets than has Briza minor. The two plants are often found together and they generally flower and seed at the same time in Spring.


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, Dec 2005

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