Synonym(s): Festuca arundinacea, Festuca elatior var. arundinacea, Festuca elatior ssp. arundinacea
Family: Poaceae (Grass Family)
Duration and Habit: Perennial Grass/Grasslike
Erect, tufted cool-season perennial grass 2 to 4 feet (60 to 120 cm) in height, green in winter and spring, during which it is the most common green bunchgrass. Dark-green leaves appearing in late winter, usually flowering in spring (infrequently in late summer). Semidormant during heat of summer, with whitish seedstalks persisting. Growth resuming in fall and continuing into early winter.
Native Lookalikes: Currently no information available, or there are no native species that could be confused with Tall fescue.
Ecological Threat: Tall fescue invades native grasslands, savannas, woodlands and other high-light natural habitats. In the Midwest, many thousands of acres of native prairie have been seeded with tall fescue for well meaning but misguided conservation purposes. In the Ozarks, woodlands and barrens were converted to tall fescue pasture to enhance grazing income. Some varieties of tall fescue, including Kentucky 31, harbor a mutualistic fungal endophyte (Neotyphodium coenophialum) that gives it a competitive advantage over some plants, including legumes. As a result, communities dominated by tall fescue are often low in plant species richness. In addition, alkaloids produced by endophyte-infected tall fescue may be toxic to small mammals and of low palatability to ungulates (such as cattle, deer and elk). Many ground-nesting birds, including Bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus), are unable to use tall fescue fields as foraging or nesting habitat because of a lack of habitat structure and vegetation composition.
Biology & Spread: Tall fescue spreads by vegetative means and by seed. Viable seeds can be dispersed by grazing animals and birds and remain in the seedbank for a long time.
History: Introduced from Europe in the early to mid-1800s. Recognized as a valuable forage grass in 1930s when the ecotype Kentucky 31 was discovered. Now widely distributed most everywhere in the World. Established widely for turf, forage, soil stabilization, and wildlife food plots.
U.S. Habitat: The predominant cool-season bunchgrass. Occurs as tufted clumps or small to extensive colonies along forest margins and right-of-ways, and widely escaped to invade new forest plantations, roads, openings, and high-elevation balds. Grows on wet to dry sites. Spreads by expanding rootcrowns and less by seeds. Certain varieties poisonous to livestock and wildlife by infecting them with an endophytic fungus.
U.S. Nativity: Introduced to U.S.
Native Origin: Not Found (Bailey, L.H. and E.Z. Bailey, Hortus Third: A Concise Dictionary of Plants Cultivated in the United States and Canada, MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., New York , (1977).); NatureServe Explorer
U.S. Present: AK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, NE, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Distribution: Tall fescue occurs throughout the continental U.S. and has been reported to be invasive in natural areas in Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.
List All Observations of Lolium arundinaceum reported by Citizen Scientists
Mixtures of native warm season grasses such as big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides), and native forbs.
A common goal of management is to restore, to the extent possible, native vegetation on a site. Sites that were planted into crop fields (bare ground) require spring burning and herbicide treatment. It is important to burn fescue after green-up but before it becomes too green to burn. After the fescue has started to regrow and is 4-8 in. (10-20 cm) high, apply 20 gallons/acre (76 l/0.4 ha) of a mixture of 1 quart (0.9 l) glyphosate, 8-12 oz. (237-355 ml) of imazapic, 1 quart (0.9 l) methylated seed oil, and 17 lbs (8 kg) of ammonium sulfate per 100 gals (379 l) of water. In sites where fescue was seeded on native grass, grazing and nitrogen should be withdrawn, and the site burned the following spring. By discontinuing nitrogen and burning, the fescue is set back. Withdrawing grazing protects the native grasses already present in the field so that they have an opportunity to develop dominance. Other options include burning, plowing, and seeding to an agricultural crop prior to reseeding with native plants.
Fishel, F. 1999. Missouri Weeds. The University of Missouri-System Board of Curators. http://www.psu.missouri.edu/fishel/grass_and_grasslike_plant_key.htm
Hannaway, D., S. Fransen, J. Cropper, M. Teel, M. Chaney, T. Griggs, R. Halse, J.
Hart, P. Cheeke, D. Hansen, R. Klinger, and W. Lane. 1999. Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.). PNW 504. Oregon State University Cooperative Extension, Corvallis, OR.
Hodges, J. 1998. How to kill tall fescue
APWG WeedUS Database
Miller, J.H. 2003. Nonnative invasive plants of southern forests: a field guide for identification and control. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-62. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 93 pp (USDA SRS).
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