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Tall Fescue

Schedonorus arundinacea

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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 Fescue, 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, 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:
120 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, grassland, hedgerows, lawns, meadows, parks, riverbanks, roadsides, rocky places, sea cliffs, seaside, wasteland, woodland.

Green, no petals
Numerous spikelets on branches, each spikelet being approximately 1.5cm in size. Spikelets are oval, green and flushed purple.
The fruit, like all grasses is a caryopsis. This is a type of dry, one-seeded fruit.
Tussock-forming, perennial grass with broad (up to 1cm), dark green, flat, linear leaves. Conspicuous basal auricles.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Schedonorus arundinacea, also known as tall fescue, is a species of grass in the genus Schedonorus. It is native to Europe and Asia, but is widely cultivated and naturalized in other parts of the world, including North America, South Africa, and Australia.

Tall fescue is a perennial grass that can grow up to 120 centimeters (about 4 feet) in height. It has broad, rough leaves that are typically between 5 and 20 millimeters (about 0.2 to 0.8 inches) wide. The flowers are arranged in a dense, spike-like inflorescence that can be up to 30 centimeters (about 12 inches) long. The seeds are small, reddish-brown to black, and are typically released in late summer to early autumn.

Tall fescue is well adapted to a wide range of conditions, and can be found growing in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, pastures, meadows, and along roadsides 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.

Tall fescue is often used for 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. Additionally, its tolerance to heat, drought and heavy traffic make it a good option for turfgrass. It is considered a cool-season grass that grows well in the cool months, in the northern hemisphere typically from late spring to early fall.

It is worth mentioning that some tall fescue cultivars contains an endophyte fungus (Neotyphodium coenophialum) that can cause toxicity in grazing animals, It's important to check the source of the fescue seed and choose endophyte-free or low-endophyte cultivars if using it for forage purposes.


Tall fescue, also known as Schedonorus arundinacea, is a cool-season grass that is commonly used in lawns, pastures, and other landscaping applications. This grass species is native to Europe and North Africa but has been widely introduced to other parts of the world, including the United States, where it is now widely used in many regions.

Tall fescue is known for its ability to tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions, making it a popular choice for areas that experience harsh winters, hot summers, and periods of drought. The grass is also highly adaptable to various soil types, including those with low fertility, pH imbalances, and high salt concentrations.

One of the key features of tall fescue is its deep root system, which can grow up to 4 feet deep. This allows the grass to access water and nutrients from deeper soil layers, making it more drought-resistant than other grasses. The deep root system also helps to reduce soil erosion and improve soil structure, which can benefit other plants growing in the same area.

Tall fescue is a bunch-type grass, meaning it grows in clumps rather than spreading through stolons or rhizomes like other grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage, depending on the intended use of the grass. For example, in a lawn setting, the clumping growth habit can create an uneven appearance, whereas in a pasture, it can allow for better control over grazing.

Another important aspect of tall fescue is its resistance to pests and diseases. The grass is naturally resistant to many common pests, including chinch bugs, sod webworms, and armyworms, and is also relatively resistant to diseases such as brown patch and dollar spot. This can reduce the need for pesticides and other chemicals in managing the grass, making it a more environmentally friendly option.

In terms of maintenance, tall fescue requires regular mowing, fertilization, and watering to maintain its health and appearance. Mowing should be done at a height of 2-3 inches to encourage a dense, healthy turf, and fertilization should be done based on soil tests to ensure proper nutrient balance. Watering should be done deeply and infrequently to encourage deep root growth, rather than frequent shallow watering which can lead to weak root systems.

Tall fescue has also been used in the conservation and restoration of disturbed areas such as mine lands, roadside revegetation, and erosion control. Its deep roots and clumping habit make it an effective erosion control option, as the grass can help stabilize soil and prevent runoff. Tall fescue is also a good option for reclamation projects, as it can help restore soil structure and provide habitat for wildlife.

There are several cultivars of tall fescue available, each with its own characteristics and advantages. For example, some cultivars have improved drought resistance, while others have better disease resistance or lower maintenance requirements. Choosing the right cultivar for a specific application is important for achieving optimal results.

One of the potential drawbacks of tall fescue is that some cultivars contain endophytic fungi, which can produce alkaloids that are toxic to some livestock species. This can result in a condition known as "fescue toxicosis," which can cause reduced weight gain, decreased milk production, and other health problems in animals that consume the grass. However, there are non-toxic cultivars available that can be used in areas where livestock grazing is a concern.

In addition to its functional benefits, tall fescue also has aesthetic value. Its deep green color and fine texture give it a pleasing appearance, and it can be used in a variety of landscaping designs to create beautiful and functional outdoor spaces. Tall fescue can be used as a lawn grass, as well as in parks, golf courses, and other recreational areas.

Tall fescue can also be used as a forage grass for livestock, providing a nutritious and high-yielding feed source for grazing animals. It is particularly well-suited to cooler climates and can be grown in conjunction with legumes such as clover to provide additional nutritional value.

In recent years, advances in plant breeding and genetics have led to the development of new cultivars of tall fescue with improved traits such as drought tolerance, disease resistance, and lower maintenance requirements. These new cultivars offer even more options for those seeking to use tall fescue in their landscaping or agricultural endeavors.

In summary, tall fescue is a versatile and resilient grass species that offers many benefits for landscaping, agriculture, and land management. Its deep root system, resistance to pests and diseases, and aesthetic appeal make it a popular choice for a wide range of applications. With proper selection and maintenance, tall fescue can provide a beautiful and functional landscape, as well as a nutritious feed source for livestock.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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