Facts about Tall Fescue

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Tall fescue Quick Facts
Name: Tall fescue
Scientific Name: Festuca arundinacea
Origin Northern Africa, the Azores, all of Europe, continental United States, southern Canada, western Asia and Pakistan.
Shapes 0.25 to 0.4 inch long (6 to 10 mm) and 0.04 to 0.06 inch wide (1 to 1.5 mm) at the midpoint (Seed)
Tall fescue scientifically known as Festuca arundinacea   is a coarse textured grass tolerant to a wide variation in environmental conditions. It is a cool-season perennial C3 species of bunchgrass belonging to Poaceae ⁄ Gramineae (Grass family). The plant is native to Northern Africa (i.e. northern Algeria, northern Libya, Morocco and Tunisia), the Azores, all of Europe, continental United States, southern Canada, western Asia and Pakistan. It is an important forage grass throughout Europe, and many cultivars have been used in agriculture. It is also an ornamental grass in gardens, and a phytoremediation plant. Reed fescue, alta fescue, coarse fescue, rescue, tall fescue, Kentucky fescue, New Zealand tall fescue and tall meadow fescue are some of the popular common names of the plant.

Genus name comes from the Latin word meaning a grass stalk or straw. Specific epithet means resembling a reed. Tall fescue spreads through tillering and seed transmission not by stolons or rhizomes, which are common in many grass species. However, tall fescue may have numerous sterile shoots that extend the width of each bunch. There are approximately 227,000 seeds per pound. It has a bunch-type growth habit that causes it to appear clumped and upright. It does not spread rapidly because of its lack of underground stolons or rhizomes. Therefore, re-seeding is a common practice to repair damaged areas and thin spots. Tall fescue does best where there are mild winters and warm summers.

Tall Fescue Facts

Name Tall fescue
Scientific Name Festuca arundinacea
Native Northern Africa (i.e. northern Algeria, northern Libya, Morocco and Tunisia), the Azores, all of Europe, continental United States, southern Canada, western Asia and Pakistan
Common Names Reed fescue, alta fescue, coarse fescue, rescue, tall fescue, Kentucky fescue, New Zealand tall fescue, tall meadow fescue
Name in Other Languages Albanian: Bimla si kallam, bishtpelëz, bishtpelëza si kallam
Arabic:  fusatawkat qasabia (فستوكة قصبية)
Bulgarian: Trŭstikovidna vlasatka (тръстиковидна власатка)
Catalan: Fenal, Fenàs, Fenàs d’aigua, Festuca, Festuca arundinàcia, Llistó, Pèl de cavall
Chinese:   wei zhuang yang mao (苇状羊茅)
Croatian:  Vlasulja barska, Vlasulja trstikasta, trstasta vlasulja
Czech:  Kostřava rákosovitá
Danish:  Strandsvingel, Strand-svingel
Dutch:  Rietzwenkgras
English:   Alta fescue, Reed fescue, Tall fescue, coarse fescue, Kentucky fescue
Estonian: Roog-aruhein
Finnish: Ruokonata
French:  Fétuque élevée, Fétuque faux roseau, Fétuque roseau
German:  Rohrschwingel, Rohr-Schwingel, großer Schwingel,  Uechtritz-Rohr-Schwingel,
Greek:  Festoúka ypsilí  (Φεστούκα υψηλή), Festoúka i kalamoeidís (Φεστούκα η καλαμοειδής)
Hebrew:  Ben afar matzuy, בן-אפר מצוי,  בֶּן=אֲפָר מָצוּי
Hungarian:  Nàdas csenkesz, nádképű csenkesz, Nádképű csenkesz alfaja
Italian:  Festuca falascona, festuca arundinacea, festuca alta, festuca falsa canna,
Japanese: Oni ushi no kegusa (オニウシノケグサ),   Tōrufesuku (トールフェスク)
Latvian: Festuca falsa canna
Lithuanian: Nendrinis eraičinas
Maltese: Żwien
Netherlands: Rietzwenkgras
Norwegian: Strandsvingel
Occitan: Bramarello
Polish:  Kostrzewa trzcinowa
Portuguese:  Erva-corneira, Festuca-alta, erva-carneira
Russian:  Ovsianitsa trostnikovaia (Овсяница тростниковая), ovsyanitsa trostnikovidnaya (овсяница тростниковидная), ovsyanichnik trostnikovyy (овсяничник тростниковый)
Serbian: Visoka vlasul̂a (висока власуља)
Slovak: Kostrava trsťovitá
Slovenian:  Trstikasta bilnica
Spanish:  Cañuela alta, Cañuela descollada, Festuca alta, Festuca canosa, Festuca descollada, zacate fescue, cañuela, festuca canosa, lastón
Swedish:  Rörsvingel, Strandsvingel
Turkish:  Kamışsı yumak                   
Ukrainian: kostrytsya ocheretyana (костриця очеретяна), костриця східна (костриця східна)
Plant Growth Habit Cool season, densely cespitose to short-rhizomatous, long-lived, aggressive perennial grass
Growing Climates Heathland, woodland, riparian habitats, freshwater, saline wetlands, moist forests, reed swamps, riparian habitats, seashores, meadows, salt marshes, cliff tops, moist grassland, reed swamps, coastal scrub, roadsides, ditches, grazed woods and railroad tracks
Soil Grows best on deep, moist soils that are heavy to medium in texture and high in organic matter. It can grow under conditions ranging from excessively drained to poorly drained, and can tolerate long periods of flooding
Plant Size Up to 6 ft. (1.8 m)
Root Roots are tough and coarse and can penetrate moist soils to a depth of 150 cm, some varieties may have short rhizomes
Stem Erect stems are hollow and can be up to 2 m tall and
end in a broad, loosely branched panicle with variations that can be narrow with short branches 10 to 35 cm long
Leaf Mostly basal, flat, 4 to 18 in. (10.2-45.7 cm) long with whitish to yellow-green, flared collars. The mid vein is not noticeable
Flowering season June-July
Flower Inflorescence is paniculate, open, 13–3 cm long, to 6 cm wide, rachis smooth, occasionally scabrous, glabrous. Spikelets is 10–17 mm long, to 8 mm wide, florets 4–8, uppermost floret often ruduced
Fruit Shape & Size Fruit is a caryopsis
Seed About 5 to 7 seeds are produced per spikelet.
Propagation By seed and increases vegetative

Plant Description

Tall fescue is a cool season, densely cespitose to short-rhizomatous, long-lived, aggressive perennial grass that normally grows about 6 ft. (1.8 m) tall. The plant is found growing in heathland, woodland, riparian habitats, freshwater, saline wetlands, moist forests, reed swamps, riparian habitats, seashores, meadows, salt marshes, cliff tops, moist grassland, reed swamps, coastal scrub, roadsides, ditches, grazed woods and railroad tracks. The plant grows best on deep, moist soils that are heavy to medium in texture and high in organic matter. It can grow under conditions ranging from excessively drained to poorly drained, and can tolerate long periods of flooding. Roots are tough and coarse and can penetrate moist soils to a depth of 150 cm; some varieties may have short rhizomes.

Stem

Flowering shoots produce hollow stems comprised of distinct nodes and internodes jointly called the culm. Culms usually are erect, stout, smooth, and up to 6 feet (2 m) tall. Uppermost culm segment supporting the panicle-type inflorescence is the peduncle. The stem base commonly is reddish.

Leaves

Leaves of tall fescue are rolled in the bud (rolled vernation). Blades are 0.1 to 0.5 inch (3 to 12 mm) wide and 4 to 24 inches (10 to 60 cm) long.  They are prominently ridged on the upper surface and glossy on the lower surface. Leaves taper to the tip, and margins are rough and cutting to the touch. Leaf sheaths are smooth, split (overlapping at the top), and reddish at the base.

Flower

Inflorescence is paniculate, open, 13–3 cm long, to 6 cm wide, rachis smooth, occasionally scabrous, glabrous. Spikelets is 10–17 mm long, to 8 mm wide, florets 4–8, uppermost floret often ruduced; pedicels 1–5 mm long, scabrous, glabrous. Glumes are unequal, acute, awnless, membranous, smooth, and glabrous; lower lanceolate, 3–6 mm long. Upper glume is lanceolate to oblong, 5–7 mm long. Lemmas are lanceolate, 5.5–9.5 mm long, acute, or mucronate, or awned, rounded on back, upper 50% often keeled, central nerve often lightly scabrous, upper margin mambranous, smooth, glabrous, awn terminal or sub-terminal, straight, to 2.5 mm long, scabrous; callus glabrous; palea sub equal to lemma, acute or 2-toothed, 2-keeled, keels lightly scabrous, glabrous.

Seed

The lemmas have awns 0.04 to 0.16 inch long (1 to 4 mm). Seeds per pound average 220,000 (484,000 per kg), with a range of 176,000 to 261,000 per pound (387,000 to 574,000 per kg). Tall fescue seeds are 0.25 to 0.4 inch long (6 to 10 mm) and 0.04 to 0.06 inch wide (1 to 1.5 mm) at the midpoint.

Few Facts about Tall Fescue

  • Tall fescue is widely used as a reliable hay, silage and pasture grass for feeding livestock.
  • Tall fescue has been planted for erosion control; however it has been shown to have similar, or even lesser, effectiveness in this regard than other grass species.
  • There is approximately 500,000 seeds kg-1, but this number will vary with the cultivar.

Prevention and Control

Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product’s label.

Eradication

Eradication of tall fescue greatly improves the opportunity to provide diverse grasslands capable of supporting more robust and healthier wildlife populations. The two methods most frequently used are herbicide application and/or conventional tillage. In choosing a method, consideration should be given to the availability of equipment, potential for soil erosion, the type of vegetation to be re-seeded, and cost.

Tall fescue is very difficult to totally eradicate. It is not always practical or necessary to remove all fescue plants. Rather, the goal should be to keep most growth suppressed so that other more beneficial and diverse vegetation types can become available to support the needs of wildlife. Once a site has been renovated, frequent mowing, deep tillage and autumn burning should be avoided as these practices will accelerate tall fescue re-infestation.

Cultural Control and Sanitary Measures

Although tall fescue is tough to eradicate without using herbicides, conventional tillage can be used for growth suppression. It is best adapted for use on non-erosive sites. The most effective method is to plough the sod in the autumn and allow the fescue rhizomes to remain exposed to freezing conditions throughout the winter months. As soon as the soil can be worked in the spring, the site should be disked down and allowed to green-up with whatever germinates. Further disking then kills off the vegetation; only the top 5-7.5 cm of the soil should be disturbed as deeper disking will only bring more fescue seed up into the germination zone. The field should be allowed to green-up again before another pass of shallow disking prior to reseeding (Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife, 2006).

Chemical Control

Herbicides can be used for tall fescue eradication usually on any site, but are strongly recommended for use on highly erosive soils and slopes where soil disturbance may cause or exacerbate erosion problems. Another advantage is that only one passes with spraying equipment is needed in most situations. Best results are obtained by spraying when fescue plants are actively growing and are approximately 15-30 cm in height; prior to herbicide treatment, the fescue should be mowed, grazed or burned and allowed to regrow to that height. This will reduce the amount of non-target residue (dead, leafy material) and ensure the maximum exposure of new growth to herbicide contact. For sites scheduled to be reseeded to a cool-season grass/legume mixture, two applications of glyphosate are recommended (autumn and spring), while for sites to be reseeded to a warm-season grass/forb mixture, glyphosate or an imidazole herbicide such as imazapic alone or in combination can be used.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=784875#null

http://www.hear.org/pier/species/festuca_arundinacea.htm

https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?id=16631

https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/23983

https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=272976&isprofile=0&

http://www.floracatalana.net/festuca-arundinacea-schreber

https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=SCAR7

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-414517

https://www.ipmimages.org/browse/subinfo.cfm?sub=3037

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festuca_arundinacea

https://www.cal-ipc.org/plants/profile/festuca-arundinacea-profile/

http://www.maltawildplants.com/POAC/Schedonorus_arundinaceus.php

https://www.invasive.org/gist/esadocs/documnts/festaru.pdf

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/FESAR

https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/166094/p256.pdf

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