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Sheep's Fescue

Festuca ovina

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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, 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:
40 centimetres tall
Gardens, grassland, heathland, lawns, moorland, mountains, rocky places, sea cliffs.

Green, no petals
An erect inflorescence, up to 12cm long. Wind pollinated.
The fruit is a caryopsis.
A tufted perennial with short, grey-green, thread-like, rough leaf blades. Leaves are up to 15cm in length.
Other Names:
Hard Fescue, Sheep Fescue.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Festuca ovina, also known as sheep's fescue, is a species of grass in the genus Festuca. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North America and it is widely cultivated and naturalized in other parts of the world as an ornamental plant or forage grass.

Festuca ovina is a small to medium-sized, tufted grass that typically grows to be about 6-12 inches tall. The leaves are typically blue-green in color and are flat and blade-like. The leaf blade is smooth and glossy with a distinct midrib. It produces panicles of flowers, which are typically green or purplish in color, that are fairly insignificant.

This grass prefers well-drained soils and can tolerate a wide range of soil types and pH, and it is tolerant of drought and heat. It is also tolerant of light shade, but it grows best in full sun. It is often used in landscaping, and can be used as a groundcover or in turf, and it is also used as a forage grass, particularly for sheep and other grazing animals, hence its common name.

This species is hardy in USDA zones 4-8, and it is relatively easy to grow if given suitable conditions. It is not considered as threatened species and it is commonly available commercially. Festuca ovina varieties are used for ornamental lawns, golf course fairways, and sports field turf. They are low-growing, fine-textured, and maintain their color well in heat and drought conditions.


Sheep's Fescue, also known as Festuca ovina, is a cool-season grass native to Europe and Asia. This grass is often used in landscaping and forage production due to its many benefits. In this blog, we will discuss some of the characteristics and uses of Sheep's Fescue.


Sheep's Fescue is a perennial grass that typically grows to a height of 10-40 cm. The leaves are thin, rolled, and have a bluish-green color. This grass has a shallow root system that makes it highly drought-tolerant. It is also highly tolerant to cold temperatures and can grow in soils with low fertility. Sheep's Fescue is a bunchgrass, meaning that it grows in clumps rather than spreading out through underground runners.


Landscaping - Sheep's Fescue is a popular ornamental grass in landscaping. Its fine texture and bluish-green color make it an attractive addition to gardens, borders, and meadows. It is also frequently used in erosion control and reclamation projects due to its shallow root system and ability to grow in harsh environments.

Forage production - Sheep's Fescue is an excellent forage grass for livestock. Its high drought tolerance and cold tolerance make it well-suited for grazing in dry or cold areas. Sheep's Fescue has a high fiber content and low protein content, making it ideal for sheep and other grazing animals that require a high-fiber diet.

Wildlife habitat - Sheep's Fescue is also an important component of wildlife habitat. It provides cover for small animals and birds, and the seeds are a food source for many birds, including sparrows and finches.


While Sheep's Fescue has many benefits, there are also some challenges to its use. Sheep's Fescue has low palatability for some livestock species, such as cattle, due to its high fiber content. It also has a low seedling vigor, which can make it difficult to establish in some environments. Finally, Sheep's Fescue can be susceptible to disease and pests, which can reduce its productivity.

In conclusion, Sheep's Fescue is a versatile and valuable grass species with many uses. Its drought tolerance, cold tolerance, and ornamental qualities make it a popular choice for landscaping, erosion control, and reclamation projects. Its high fiber content and ability to grow in harsh environments make it an excellent forage grass for sheep and other grazing animals. Despite some challenges, Sheep's Fescue remains an important grass species with many benefits.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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