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Meadow Fescue

Schedonorus pratensis

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Poaceae (Grass)
Also in this family:
Alpine Catstail, Alpine Foxtail, Alpine Meadow-grass, Annual Beard-grass, Annual Meadow-grass, Arrow Bamboo, Barren Brome Grass, Bearded Couch Grass, Bearded Fescue, Bermuda Grass, Black Bent, Black Grass, Blue Fescue, Blue Moor-grass, Bog Hair-grass, Borrer's Saltmarsh Grass, Bread Wheat, Bristle Bent, Brown Bent, Brown Sedge, Bulbous Foxtail, Bulbous Meadow-grass, California Brome Grass, Canary Grass, Carnation Sedge, Cocksfoot, Cockspur, Common Bent, Common Cord-grass, Common Millet, Common Reed, Common Saltmarsh Grass, Compact Brome Grass, Corn, Couch Grass, Creeping Bent, Creeping Soft-grass, Crested Dog's-tail, Crested Hair-grass, Cultivated Oat, Curved Hard Grass, Cut Grass, Dense Silky Bent, Downy Oat-grass, Drooping Brome Grass, Drooping Tor Grass, Dune Fescue, Early Hair-grass, Early Meadow-grass, Early Sand-grass, False Brome Grass, False Oat-grass, Fern Grass, Fine-leaved Sheep's Fescue, Flattened Meadow-grass, Floating Sweet-grass, Foxtail Barley, French Oat, Giant Fescue, Glaucous Meadow-grass, Great Brome Grass, Greater Quaking Grass, Grey Hair-grass, Hairy Brome Grass, Hairy Finger-grass, Hard Fescue, Hard Grass, Harestail Grass, Heath Grass, Holy Grass, Hybrid Marram Grass, Italian Rye Grass, Knotroot Bristlegrass, Lesser Hairy Brome Grass, Lesser Quaking Grass, Loose Silky Bent, Lyme Grass, Marram Grass, Marsh Foxtail, Mat Grass, Mat-grass Fescue, Meadow Barley, Meadow Foxtail, Meadow Oat-grass, Mountain Melick, Narrow-leaved Meadow-grass, Narrow-leaved Small-reed, Neglected Couch Grass, Nit Grass, Orange Foxtail, Pampas Grass, Perennial Rye Grass, Plicate Sweet-grass, Purple Moor-grass, Purple Small-reed, Purple-stem Catstail, Quaking Grass, Ratstail Fescue, Red Fescue, Reed Canary Grass, Reed Sweet-grass, Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass, Rescue Grass, Rough Meadow-grass, Rush-leaved Fescue, Sand Catstail, Sand Couch Grass, Scandinavian Small-reed, Scottish Small-reed, Sea Barley, Sea Couch Grass, Sea Fern Grass, Sheep's Fescue, Silver Hair-grass, Six-rowed Barley, Slender Brome Grass, Small Cord-grass, Small Sweet-grass, Smaller Catstail, Smooth Brome Grass, Smooth Cord-grass, Smooth Finger-grass, Smooth Meadow-grass, Soft Brome Grass, Somerset Hair-grass, Sorghum, Spreading Meadow-grass, Squirreltail Fescue, Stiff Brome Grass, Stiff Saltmarsh Grass, Sweet Vernal Grass, Tall Fescue, Timothy Grass, Tor Grass, Tufted Hair-grass, Two-rowed Barley, Upright Brome Grass, Velvet Bent, Viviparous Fescue, Wall Barley, Wavy Hair-grass, Wavy Meadow-grass, Whorl Grass, Wild Oat, Wood Barley, Wood Fescue, Wood Meadow-grass, Wood Melick, Wood Millet, Yellow Oat-grass, Yorkshire Fog
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Gardens, grassland, lawns, meadows, parks, riverbanks, riversides, roadsides, rocky places, wasteland, waterside.

Green, no petals
Green, purple-tinged flowers. Spikelets have 5 to 14 flowers. Wind pollinated.
Grasses have fruits known as caryopses. A caryopsis is a type of dry, one-seeded fruit.
Leaves are long and linear. Up to 4mm wide. Green basal auricles. The similar looking Tall Fescue (Schedonorus arundinacea) can be distinguished from this Meadow Fescue in that it has minute hairs on its auricles. Perennial.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Schedonorus pratensis, also known as meadow fescue, is a species of grass native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is a perennial grass that is often used as forage for livestock and as a cover crop for soil conservation. It is also used in turf grass seed mixtures for lawns, parks, and golf courses.

Meadow fescue is a tall grass that can grow up to 150 centimeters (about 5 feet) in height. It has broad, smooth leaves that are typically between 4 and 10 millimeters (about 0.16 to 0.4 inches) wide. The flowers are arranged in a dense, spike-like inflorescence that can be up to 20 centimeters (about 8 inches) long. The seeds are small, reddish-brown to black, and are typically released in late summer to early autumn.

Meadow fescue is well adapted to cold climates and is able to grow well in soils that are low in nutrients. It is often found in grasslands, meadows, and pastures, as well as along roadsides, riverbanks, and in other disturbed areas. It prefers moist, well-drained soils but can also tolerate dry, rocky soils. It can also tolerate shade, making it suitable for planting under trees.

It is a cool-season grass, that growth well in the cool months, in the northern hemisphere typically from late spring to early fall. And as a long-lived perennial grass, it can persist for several years and provides forage for grazing animals and habitats for wildlife.


Meadow fescue, scientifically known as Schedonorus pratensis, is a cool-season grass that is widely distributed across Europe, Asia, and North America. It is a valuable forage crop that is often used for hay, silage, and grazing. In this blog, we will explore the characteristics of meadow fescue, its benefits, and how to cultivate it.

Characteristics of Meadow Fescue

Meadow fescue is a perennial grass that can grow up to 1.5 meters tall. Its leaves are flat and narrow, with a shiny upper surface and a rough texture on the underside. The plant has an extensive root system that allows it to survive in a wide range of soil types and conditions. It is tolerant of both drought and flooding, making it a versatile crop in many regions.

One of the unique features of meadow fescue is its ability to produce large amounts of high-quality forage during the summer months when other cool-season grasses are less productive. This makes it an important crop for farmers who need to provide feed for their livestock during this period.

Benefits of Meadow Fescue

Meadow fescue has many benefits for both livestock and farmers. It is highly palatable, meaning that animals find it to be a tasty food source. It also has a high nutritional value, with a protein content of around 15-20% and a low fiber content. This makes it an ideal feed for both dairy and beef cattle.

In addition to its nutritional value, meadow fescue has other benefits for farmers. Its deep root system helps to improve soil structure, making it more resistant to erosion and increasing its ability to retain moisture. This can lead to higher crop yields and better soil health in the long term. The plant's tolerance to drought and flooding also means that it can be grown in a wide range of climatic conditions.

Cultivation of Meadow Fescue

Meadow fescue is a relatively easy crop to grow, but there are some important considerations to keep in mind. The best time to plant meadow fescue is in the late summer or early fall, as this allows the plant to establish itself before the winter. It is important to ensure that the seedbed is well-prepared, with a fine and firm soil structure that is free from weeds.

Meadow fescue should be planted at a depth of around 1-2 cm, and the seed should be sown at a rate of 25-30 kg per hectare. The crop should be fertilized according to soil test results, and it is important to avoid over-fertilization as this can lead to excessive leaf growth and reduced forage quality.

In terms of grazing management, meadow fescue should be grazed lightly in the spring to encourage tillering and root growth. It can then be grazed more heavily during the summer months when it is at its most productive. The crop can also be harvested for hay or silage, with the first cut typically taken in late May or early June.


Meadow fescue is a valuable forage crop that has many benefits for both livestock and farmers. Its high nutritional value and palatability make it an ideal feed for dairy and beef cattle, and its deep root system can help to improve soil health and increase crop yields. With proper management, meadow fescue can be a profitable and sustainable crop for farmers in a wide range of regions.

More Information about Meadow Fescue

Meadow fescue is a versatile crop that can be used in a variety of settings. It is commonly grown in pastures and forage fields, but it can also be used for erosion control and reclamation projects. In addition, meadow fescue is a valuable component of conservation mixes and can be used to improve habitat for wildlife.

One of the advantages of meadow fescue is its ability to tolerate low pH soils. This makes it an ideal crop for acidic soils that may not be suitable for other forage crops. However, it is important to note that meadow fescue may not perform well in soils that are excessively alkaline or saline.

Meadow fescue is also a good companion crop for legumes, such as white clover and alfalfa. These legumes can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and make it available to the meadow fescue, which can lead to higher yields and improved forage quality.

When it comes to pests and diseases, meadow fescue is generally resistant to many common diseases that affect other forage crops, such as rust and leaf spot. However, it can be susceptible to certain pests, such as the meadow fescue aphid and armyworms. Careful monitoring and timely control measures can help to minimize damage from these pests.

Meadow fescue can also play a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural sector. As a perennial crop, it has a deep root system that sequesters carbon in the soil, helping to mitigate the impact of farming on the environment. In addition, meadow fescue can be used in crop rotations with other crops, such as corn and soybeans, which can help to reduce soil erosion and nutrient leaching.

Another benefit of meadow fescue is its ability to reduce the risk of bloat in ruminant animals. Bloat is a condition that can occur when cattle consume too much legume forage, which can cause excessive gas buildup in the rumen. By incorporating meadow fescue into pastures and forage fields, farmers can reduce the risk of bloat and improve the health and productivity of their livestock.

Meadow fescue is also an important crop for sustainable agriculture. As a cool-season grass, it has the potential to extend the grazing season for livestock, reducing the need for stored feeds and the associated energy inputs required for their production. By using meadow fescue in conjunction with other forage crops, farmers can reduce their reliance on synthetic fertilizers and other inputs, leading to a more sustainable and resilient agricultural system.

In terms of seed availability, there are many different varieties of meadow fescue that are available from seed companies and agricultural cooperatives. These varieties may differ in their growth habits, forage quality, and disease resistance, so it is important to select a variety that is well-suited to the local conditions and management practices.

Overall, meadow fescue is a valuable and versatile crop that can play an important role in sustainable agriculture. By incorporating meadow fescue into their farming systems, farmers can improve the productivity and health of their livestock, reduce their environmental impact, and increase the long-term sustainability of their operations.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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