Open the Advanced Search

Fine-leaved Sheep's Fescue

Festuca filiformis

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


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, 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, 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, parks, woodland.

Green, no petals
Green flower spikes (turning purple later in the season), up to 30cm. Spikelets are frequently unawned.
The fruit is a caryopsis.
Tuft-forming with leaves up to 15cm tall. Leaf blades are bluish-green to dark green.
Other Names:
Fine-leaf Sheep Fescue, Hair Fescue, Needle Fescue, Slender Fescue.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Festuca filiformis, also known as needle 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 filiformis is a small, tufted grass that typically grows to be about 6-12 inches tall. The leaves are very fine, needle-like and are typically blue-green to gray-green in color. 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 for grazing animals.

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 filiformis 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.


Fine-leaved sheep's fescue, or Festuca filiformis, is a species of grass that is native to Europe and parts of Asia. This plant belongs to the family Poaceae, and is commonly found growing in mountainous areas, alpine meadows, and rocky slopes. Fine-leaved sheep's fescue is a cool-season grass that grows slowly and is highly adapted to cold and harsh conditions.

Fine-leaved sheep's fescue is a tufted grass that can grow up to 40 cm tall. It has thin, hair-like leaves that are about 1 mm wide and up to 25 cm long. The inflorescence of this grass is a dense, narrow spike that can grow up to 15 cm long. The flowers are greenish and inconspicuous, and the fruits are small and dry.

This species of grass is highly valued for its ability to grow in harsh and difficult conditions, including cold temperatures, high altitudes, and low-nutrient soils. It is often used in revegetation projects and erosion control, as well as for landscaping and ornamental purposes. Fine-leaved sheep's fescue is also a popular choice for golf course fairways and other turf areas, as it requires minimal maintenance and has a fine texture that creates a dense, attractive appearance.

In addition to its practical uses, fine-leaved sheep's fescue is also an important component of many natural ecosystems. It provides food and habitat for a variety of wildlife, including birds, insects, and small mammals. Its deep, extensive root system helps to stabilize soil and prevent erosion, and it plays a key role in maintaining soil moisture levels in dry, rocky areas.

Despite its many benefits, fine-leaved sheep's fescue is threatened by habitat loss, overgrazing, and other human activities. In some areas, it is considered a rare or endangered species and is protected by conservation laws. To ensure the continued survival of this important grass, it is important to manage grazing and other land use practices in a way that supports its growth and reproduction.

Fine-leaved sheep's fescue has been used in traditional medicine for a variety of ailments, including respiratory infections, diarrhea, and urinary tract disorders. Its antibacterial and antifungal properties have been studied in laboratory settings, and it is believed that the plant contains compounds that may have potential as natural remedies for certain health conditions.

In addition to its practical and medicinal uses, fine-leaved sheep's fescue has cultural and historical significance in some regions where it is native. In parts of Europe, this grass has been used as a component of thatched roofs and woven into baskets and other crafts. In some areas, it is also used in traditional folk dances and festivals.

As a cool-season grass, fine-leaved sheep's fescue grows best in cooler climates and can be grown in a variety of soil types, including sandy, rocky, and well-draining soils. It is often used in mixtures with other cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass, to create a diverse and attractive turf. When used for landscaping or erosion control, it is recommended to plant fine-leaved sheep's fescue in the fall or early spring.

In recent years, there has been increased interest in the use of fine-leaved sheep's fescue and other cool-season grasses for sustainable lawn and landscape management. These grasses require less water, fertilizer, and pesticides than warm-season grasses, making them a more environmentally-friendly option. In addition, their ability to thrive in cool and challenging conditions makes them a valuable resource for adapting to climate change and maintaining ecosystem health.

Fine-leaved sheep's fescue is a valuable species of grass that offers many benefits and opportunities for practical, ecological, and cultural use. By supporting its growth and conservation, we can help to preserve and appreciate the unique and important role that this grass plays in the natural world.

One interesting aspect of fine-leaved sheep's fescue is its ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions. This grass has been observed to change its growth patterns and reproductive strategies in response to different climatic and soil conditions. For example, in areas with low soil nutrients, the plant may produce more seeds, while in areas with high water stress, it may allocate more resources to root growth. This ability to adapt to local conditions makes fine-leaved sheep's fescue a valuable species for restoration and conservation efforts.

Another notable characteristic of fine-leaved sheep's fescue is its role in promoting soil health and biodiversity. This grass has been found to support a diverse array of microorganisms in the soil, including beneficial fungi and bacteria. These microorganisms can help to improve soil structure, increase nutrient availability, and suppress harmful pathogens. In addition, fine-leaved sheep's fescue provides habitat and food for a variety of insects and other invertebrates, which in turn support higher levels of biodiversity and ecosystem health.

As with any plant species, there are also potential challenges and limitations associated with the use of fine-leaved sheep's fescue. In some cases, it may be outcompeted by invasive species or may not thrive in certain soil or climatic conditions. In addition, there may be limitations to its use in certain landscaping or turf applications, such as areas with heavy foot traffic or high wear and tear.

Despite these limitations, the many benefits of fine-leaved sheep's fescue make it an important and valuable species for a variety of ecological, cultural, and practical purposes. Whether used for erosion control, landscaping, or as a component of traditional medicine or crafts, this grass offers unique and important contributions to the natural world and human societies. By continuing to learn about and appreciate this species, we can help to support its conservation and sustainable use for generations to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map